U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Micrometeorology in Agricultural Systems (2005) Agronomy Monograph no. 47: 407-436.


The exchange of energy and mass between a surface and the lowest region of the troposphere is a complex process that governs many hydrological, agricultural, and atmospheric processes. The layer of air directly affected by surface– atmosphere exchanges is strongly influenced by turbulent processes at the surface–atmosphere boundary and extends upward into the atmosphere to a height of approximately 1 km. This region is commonly referred to as the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) that is uniquely characterized by turbulence resulting from mechanical (wind shear) and buoyancy (thermal) forces at or near the surface. Methods have been developed to evaluate energy/mass (heat, water vapor, trace gases, and pollutants) exchanges between the ABL and the underlying surface. In this chapter, we describe the flux gradient approach for estimating mass and energy fluxes under the rubric of aerodynamic methods. We provide some historical perspective, present fundamental equations in the context of Monin-Obukhov similarity theory and introduce recent developments of an alternative method to compute heat and water vapor fluxes using turbulence variance statistics.