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Advances in Meteorology
Volume 2017, Article ID 6841239, 19 pages
Research Article

On the Potential of 25 Years (1991–2015) of Rawinsonde Measurements for Elucidating Climatological and Spatiotemporal Patterns of Afternoon Boundary Layer Depths over the Contiguous US

1Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, TN, USA
2Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Sandip Pal; ude.usp@252pus

Received 24 November 2016; Revised 27 February 2017; Accepted 26 March 2017; Published 11 June 2017

Academic Editor: Anthony R. Lupo

Copyright © 2017 Temple R. Lee and Sandip Pal. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The daytime planetary boundary layer (PBL) depth is an essential parameter in, for example, dispersion models and numerical weather prediction. We applied a recently developed technique to estimate afternoon PBL depths from 516,887 daily rawinsonde measurements obtained at 0000 UTC between 1 Jan 1991 and 31 Dec 2015 from 67 US sites. We discuss salient features in the PBL depth variability and examine the climatology of afternoon PBL depths as a function of geographical region and Köppen-Geiger climate regime. Results indicated a strong east to west PBL depth gradient, with higher PBL depths over the semiarid regions of the western US in spring and summer. Many sites located near coastlines exhibited no seasonal cycle due to marine boundary layer influences, and an inverse relationship was found between distance from the coast and observed afternoon PBL depth. Differentiating by climate type, BWk (arid, desert, and cold) has the largest median winter (1075 m) and summer (2500 m) PBL depths. Median PBL depths for Cfa (temperate, no dry season, and hot summers), Dfa (cold, no dry season, and warm summer), and Dfb (cold, no dry season, and hot summers) climate types are 750 m and 1000 m during winter and summer, respectively.