Using Sonic Anemometer Temperature To Measure Sensible Heat Flux In Strong Winds

  • Sites: US-NR1
  • Publication Type: JOUR
  • Authors: Burns, S. P.; Horst, T. W.; Jacobsen, L.; Blanken, P. D.; Monson, R. K.

  • Sonic anemometers simultaneously measure the turbulent fluctuations of vertical wind (w’) and sonic temperature (Ts’), and are commonly used to measure sensible heat flux (H). Our study examines 30-min heat fluxes measured with a Campbell Scientific CSAT3 sonic anemometer above a subalpine forest. We compared H calculated with Ts to H calculated with a co-located thermocouple and found that, for horizontal wind speed (U) less than 8 m s−1, the agreement was around ±30 W m−2. However, for U ≈ 8 m s−1, the CSAT H had a generally positive deviation from H calculated with the thermocouple, reaching a maximum difference of ≈250 W m−2 at U ≈ 18 m s−1. With version 4 of the CSAT firmware, we found significant underestimation of the speed of sound and thus Ts in high winds (due to a delayed detection of the sonic pulse), which resulted in the large CSAT heat flux errors. Although this Ts error is qualitatively similar to the well-known fundamental correction for the crosswind component, it is quantitatively different and directly related to the firmware estimation of the pulse arrival time. For a CSAT running version 3 of the firmware, there does not appear to be a significant underestimation of Ts; however, a Ts error similar to that of version 4 may occur if the CSAT is sufficiently out of calibration. An empirical correction to the CSAT heat flux that is consistent with our conceptual understanding of the Ts error is presented. Within a broader context, the surface energy balance is used to evaluate the heat flux measurements, and the usefulness of side-by-side instrument comparisons is discussed.


  • Journal: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques
  • Funding Agency: —
  • Citation Information:
  • Volume: 5
  • No: 9
  • Pages: 2095-2111
  • Publication Year: 2012/09/03
  • DOI: 10.5194/amt-5-2095-2012
  • https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-5-2095-2012