Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 143, Issue 2, pp 379–391 | Cite as

The Effect of Scale on the Applicability of Taylor’s Frozen Turbulence Hypothesis in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

  • Chad W. Higgins
  • Martin Froidevaux
  • Valentin Simeonov
  • Nikki Vercauteren
  • Caitlin Barry
  • Marc B. Parlange
Open Access


Taylor’s frozen turbulence hypothesis is the central assumption invoked in most experiments designed to investigate turbulence physics with time resolving sensors. It is also frequently used in theoretical discussions when linking Lagrangian to Eulerian flow formalisms. In this work we seek to quantify the effectiveness of Taylor’s hypothesis on the field scale using water vapour as a passive tracer. A horizontally orientated Raman lidar is used to capture the humidity field in space and time above an agricultural region in Switzerland. High resolution wind speed and direction measurements are conducted simultaneously allowing for a direct test of Taylor’s hypothesis at the field scale. Through a wavelet decomposition of the lidar humidity measurements we show that the scale of turbulent motions has a strong influence on the applicability of Taylor’s hypothesis. This dependency on scale is explained through the use of dimensional analysis. We identify a ‘persistency scale’ that can be used to quantify the effectiveness of Taylor’s hypothesis, and present the accuracy of the hypothesis as a function of this non-dimensional length scale. These results are further investigated and verified through the use of large-eddy simulations.


Atmospheric boundary layer Humidity Raman lidar Taylor’s frozen turbulence hypothesis 



The authors would like to thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (project no. 200021-107910/1, 200021_120238/1, 2008–2011) and the Mobile Information Communication System (MICS) for their support of this research.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chad W. Higgins
    • 1
  • Martin Froidevaux
    • 2
  • Valentin Simeonov
    • 2
  • Nikki Vercauteren
    • 2
  • Caitlin Barry
    • 2
  • Marc B. Parlange
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological and Ecological EngineeringOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental EngineeringEcole Polytechnique Federale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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