Land-Atmosphere Interactions and Feedbacks

ARL partners with other laboratories and universities to develop micrometeorological methods to observe lower land/atmosphere interactions including surface fluxes and controls, better understand the linkages to the boundary layer processes and feedbacks, and to better represent these processes in weather forecasting models. Field experiments are designed to replicate sampling of point measurements known to be highly variable such as soil moisture, soil temperature, and vertical atmospheric gradients. More details about the field experiments in which ATDD has recently been involved are discussed in more detail below.

ARL is also developing new and innovative technologies (UAS platforms and sensors) to observe surface and atmospheric variables (i.e. air temperature, humidity, wind, land surface temperature) and to obtain derived quantities from these measurements (e.g., Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, surface heat fluxes, etc.).

CHEESEHEAD (Chequamegon Heterogeneous Ecosystem Energy-balance Study Enabled by a High-density Extensive Array of Detectors)

Goal: Investigate the role of surface heterogeneity on boundary layer development and heat and water exchanges processes

Study Period: July – October 2019

Location: 10 km x 10 km domain around the WLEF TV tower (447 m) near Park Falls, WI 

Collaborators: University of Wisconsin, NOAA, NCAR, NEON, and many other university participants both national and international

ARL Papers:

Butterworth, B. J., A. Desai, S. Metzger, P. A. Townsend; M. D. Schwartz; G. W. Petty; M. Mauder, H. Vogelmann, C. G. Andresen, T. J. Augustine, T. H. Bertram, W. O.J. Brown, M. Buban, P. Cleary, D. J. Durden, C. R. Florian, E. Ruiz Guzman, T. J. Iglinski, E. L. Kruger, K. Lantz, T. R. Lee, T. P. Meyers, J. K. Mineau, E. R. Olson, S. P. Oncley, S. Paleri, R. A. Pertzborn, C. Pettersen, D. M. Plummer, L. Riihimaki, J. Sedlar, E. N. Smith, J. Speidel, P. C. Stoy, M. Sühring, J. E. Thom, D. D. Turner, M. P. Vermeuel, T. J. Wagner, Z. Wang, L. Wanner, L. D. White, J. M. M. Wilczak, D. B. Wright, and T. Zheng, 2020: Connecting Land-Atmosphere Interactions to Surface Heterogeneity in CHEESEHEAD19. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 102, E421-E445,

sUAS in the sky high above the tree line and a meteorological tower
Small drone lifting off the ground in a small clearing at the edge of woods. A man stands a few feet behind it using the control box.
Ed Dumas begins a flight with one of ARL's rotary-wing aircraft.

SPLASH (Study of Precipitation, the Lower Atmosphere and Surface for Hydrometeorology)

SPLASH complements a U.S. Department of Energy campaign called the Surface-Atmosphere Integrated field Laboratory (SAIL) and will use observations from the USGS’s Next Generation Water Observing System in the Upper Colorado River Basin to help evaluate and improve NOAA’s latest suite of modeling tools

Goal: Improve our understanding of hydrometeorological processes in complex terrain in order to advance our weather and water prediction capabilities, UFS, HRRR, NWM

Study Period: Oct 2021 – Sept 2023

Location: East River basin near Crested Butte, CO

Collaborators: RMBL, NOAA, DOE, USGS, UCAR

The SPLASH precipitation gauge.
SPLASH Campaign: ARL instrumentation relative to the mobile SURFRAD and the snow level radar and disdrometer.


Goal: Understand the role of mesoscale environmental factors characteristic of the Southeast US on the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region.

Study Period: 1 November 2018 – 30 April 2019

Location: Southeast US. operations focused on research radiosonde releases from up to 10 locations around the southeastern US (from Texas to Alabama) as well as special 06 and 18 UTC releases from NWS locations during up to ten Intensive Observing Periods (IOPs) from November 2018 to April 2019

Collaborators: NOAA, NCAR, CIMMS (now CIWRO), and many other university participants.

Data Archive

LAFE (Land-Atmosphere Feedback Experiment)

Goal: Investigate land-atmosphere interactions and feedbacks at high spatial resolution in the Southern Great Plains region

Study Period: August 2017

Location: Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains (SGP) site in Northern Oklahoma, USA

Collaborators: NOAA, University of Hohenheim, NCAR, CIMSS, and several other universities. 

LAFE description and data sets

ARL Papers:

Lee, T. R., and M. Buban, 2020: Evaluation of Monin-Obukhov and bulk Richardson parameterizations for surface-atmosphere exchange. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 59 (6), 1091-1107,

Lee, T. R., M. S. Buban, and T. P. Meyers, 2021: Application of bulk Richardson parameterizations of surface fluxes to heterogeneous land surfaces. Monthly Weather Review, 149, 3243-3264,

Wulfmeyer V., D. D. Turner, B. Baker, R. Banta, A. Behrendt, T. Bonin, W. A. Brewer, M. Buban, A. Choukulkar, E. Dumas, R. M. Hardesty, T. Heus, D. Lange, T. R. Lee, S. Metzendorf, T. Meyers, R. Newsom, M. Osman, S. Raasch, J. Santanello, C. Senff, F. Späth, T. Wagner, and T. Weckwerth, 2018: A new research approach for observing and characterizing land-atmosphere feedback. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 99 (8), 1639-1667,

Dumas, Edward J. (Edward James); Lee, Temple R.; Buban, Michael Scott, 1978-; Baker, Clifford Bruce, 1930-. Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) measurements during the 2017 Land-Atmosphere Feedback Experiment (LAFE). doi:10.7289/V5/TM-OAR-ARL-277

VORTEX-SE (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment-Southeast)

Goal: Understand how fine-scale environmental factors characteristic of the Southeast US affect the formation, intensity, structure, and path of tornadoes in this region

Study Period: Spring 2016 and spring 2017

Location: Alabama

Collaborators: NOAA, NCAR, NASA, CIMMS (now CIWRO), and many other university participants

Campaign Documentation and Data Archive

ARL Papers:

Lee, T. R., M. Buban, D. D. Turner, T. P. Meyers, and C. B. Baker, 2019: Evaluation of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model using near-surface meteorological and flux observations from Northern Alabama. Weather and Forecasting, 34 (3), 635-663,

Markowski, P. M., N. T. Lis, D. D. Turner, T. R. Lee, and M. S. Buban, 2019: Observations of near-surface vertical wind profiles and vertical momentum fluxes from VORTEX-Southeast 2017: Comparisons to Monin-Obukhov similarity theory. Monthly Weather Review, 147 (10), 3811-3824,

Dumas, Edward J. (Edward James); Lee, Temple R.; Buban, Michael Scott, 1978-; Baker, Clifford Bruce, 1930-. Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) measurements during the 2017 Verifications of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment Southeast (VORTEX-SE). doi:10.7289/V5/TM-OAR-ARL-274

One man holding the bottom of the string as the other releases the large weather balloon
Scientists conduct a balloon launch during VORTEX-SE