On Atmospheric Boundary Layer, Plants and Climate

Amilcare Porporato, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University

Abstract: We discuss recent results on the mixed-layer modeling of the atmospheric boundary layer to investigate the role of surface fluxes due to hydrologic controls by plants and soil moisture. We focus on the initiation of moist convection taking place when the atmospheric boundary layer reaches the lifting condensation level (LCL) in conditions of high convective available potential energy (CAPE). We show how transpiration regimes of different photosynthetic types (e.g., C3, C4 and CAM) may imply different controls of such occurrences.


The daily cloud cycle associated to these processes is then investigated globally using satellite observations and reanalysis data and compared with results from climate models. We show that typical afternoon cloud peaks over land are poorly reproduced by most climate models, resulting in biases in the Earth’s energy balance leading to overestimation of radiation in most climate models.


About the Speaker: Amilcare Porporato currently is the Thomas J. Wu ’94 Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University. He earned his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering (summa cum laude) in 1992 and a Ph.D. in Hydraulic Engineering in 1996 from the Polytechnic of Turin, where he was appointed as a researcher and then associate professor. He moved to Duke University in 2003, where he became the Addy professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a secondary appointment with the Nicholas School of the Environment. His main research interests regard nonlinear and stochastic dynamical systems, hydrometeorology and soil-atmosphere interaction, soil moisture and plant dynamics, soil biogeochemistry, ecohydrology and environmental thermodynamics. Porporato has been Editor of Water Resources Research (AGU) (2004-2009) and Hydrological Processes (2011-2017). He is also member of the editorial board of Advances in Water Resources and the Hydrologic Science Journal.


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