Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 159, Issue 3, pp 539–565 | Cite as

Adapting Tilt Corrections and the Governing Flow Equations for Steep, Fully Three-Dimensional, Mountainous Terrain

  • Holly J. Oldroyd
  • Eric R. Pardyjak
  • Hendrik Huwald
  • Marc B. Parlange


In recent studies of atmospheric turbulent surface exchange in complex terrain, questions arise concerning velocity-sensor tilt corrections and the governing flow equations for coordinate systems aligned with steep slopes. The standard planar-fit method, a popular tilt-correction technique, must be modified when applied to complex mountainous terrain. The ramifications of these adaptations have not previously been fully explored. Here, we carefully evaluate the impacts of the selection of sector size (the range of flow angles admitted for analysis) and planar-fit averaging time. We offer a methodology for determining an optimized sector-wise planar fit (SPF), and evaluate the sensitivity of momentum fluxes to varying these SPF input parameters. Additionally, we clarify discrepancies in the governing flow equations for slope-aligned coordinate systems that arise in the buoyancy terms due to the gravitational vector no longer acting along a coordinate axis. New adaptions to the momentum equations and turbulence kinetic energy budget equation allow for the proper treatment of the buoyancy terms for purely upslope or downslope flows, and for slope flows having a cross-slope component. Field data show that new terms in the slope-aligned forms of the governing flow equations can be significant and should not be omitted. Since the optimized SPF and the proper alignment of buoyancy terms in the governing flow equations both affect turbulent fluxes, these results hold implications for similarity theory or budget analyses for which accurate flux estimates are important.


Complex terrain Governing flow equations Sensor tilt corrections Slope flows Turbulent flux measurements 



This research was primarily funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF-200021-134892) and the Competence Center for Environmental Sustainability (CCES-SwissEx) of the ETH domain. The work was partially supported by the United States Office of Naval Research, Award #N00014-11-1-0709 and the NSERC Discovery Grant. The authors wish to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights and questions. The authors also wish to thank Dr. Evgeni Fedorovich, Dr. Nikki Vercauteren and Marco Giometto for lively and helpful discussions regarding the subject matter of this paper, and to Derek Jensen of the MATERHORN campaign for assistance with the PLAYA dataset. Thanks go also to our colleagues from the EFLUM laboratory for great assistance in the Val Ferret field campaign, especially Raphael Mutzner who also helped with GIS support. Finally, special thanks to the Commune d’Orsières for general logistical support for field campaigns in Val Ferret.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holly J. Oldroyd
    • 1
  • Eric R. Pardyjak
    • 2
  • Hendrik Huwald
    • 1
  • Marc B. Parlange
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental EngineeringÉcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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