The effects of the horizontal variability of surface properties on the turbulent fluxes of virtual potential temperature, moisture, and carbon dioxide are investigated by combining aircraft observations with large-eddy simulations (LESs). Daytime fair-weather aircraft measurements from the 2002 International H2O Project’s 45-km Eastern Track over mixed grassland and winter wheat in southeast Kansas reveal that the western part of the atmospheric boundary layer was warmer and drier than the eastern part, with higher values of carbon dioxide to the east. The temperature and specific humidity patterns are consistent with the pattern of surface fluxes produced by the High-Resolution Land Data Assimilation System. However, the observed turbulent fluxes of virtual potential temperature, moisture, and carbon dioxide, computed as a function of longitude along the flight track, do not show a clear east–west trend. Rather, the fluxes at 70 m above ground level related better to the surface variability quantified in terms of the normalized differential vegetation index (NDVI), with strong correlation between carbon dioxide fluxes and NDVI.
A first attempt is made to estimate the ratios of the flux at the entrainment zone to the surface flux (entrainment ratios) as a function of longitude. The entrainment ratios averaged from these observations (βθυ ≈ 0.10, βq ≈ −2.4, and βCO2 ≈ −0.58) are similar to the values found from the homogeneous LES experiment with initial and boundary conditions similar to observations.
To understand how surface flux heterogeneity influences turbulent fluxes higher up, a heterogeneous LES experiment is performed in a domain with higher sensible and lower latent heat fluxes in the western half compared to the eastern half. In contrast to the aircraft measurements, the LES turbulent fluxes show a difference in magnitude between the eastern and western halves at 70 and 700 m above ground level. Possible reasons for these differences between results from LES and aircraft measurements are discussed.