A Functional Approach to Vertical Turbulent Transport of Scalars in the Atmospheric Surface Layer

Robert Clement, John Moncrieff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eddy covariance has been the de facto method of analyzing scalar turbulent transport data. To refine the information available from these data, we derive a simplified version of the turbulent scalar-transport equation for the surface layer, which employs a more explicit form of signal decomposition and dispenses with Reynolds averaging in favour of an averaging operator based on the relevant scalar-flux driving variables. The resulting method, termed functional covariance, provides five areas of improvement in flux estimation: (i) Better representation of surface fluxes through closer correspondence of turbulent exchange with variations in the driving variables. (ii) An approximate 25% reduction in flux uncertainty resulting from improved independence of turbulent-flux samples. (iii) Improved data retention through less onerous quality control (stationarity) testing. (iv) Improved estimation of low-frequency flux contributions through reduced uncertainty and avoidance of driving-variable nonstationarity. (v) Potential elimination of flux-storage estimation when state driving-variables are used to define the functional-covariance flux averaging. We describe the important considerations required for application of functional covariance, apply both functional- and eddy-covariance methods to an example dataset, compare the resulting eddy- and functional-covariance esti- mates, and demonstrate the aforementioned benefits of functional covariance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1007/s10546-019-00474-z
Pages (from-to)373–408
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Early online date10 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Functional Covariance
  • Eddy Covariance
  • surface layer
  • micrometeorology


Dive into the research topics of 'A Functional Approach to Vertical Turbulent Transport of Scalars in the Atmospheric Surface Layer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this