Offshore low-level jet observations and model representation using lidar buoy data off the California coast
Abstract. Low-level jets (LLJs) occur under a variety of atmospheric conditions and influence the available wind resource for wind energy projects. In 2020, lidar-mounted buoys owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were deployed off the California coast in two wind energy lease areas administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: Humboldt and Morro Bay. The wind profile observations from the lidars and collocated near-surface meteorological stations (4 m – 240 m) provide valuable year-long analyses of offshore LLJ characteristics at heights relevant to wind turbines. At Humboldt, LLJs were associated with flow reversals and north-northeasterly winds, directions that are more aligned with terrain influences than the predominant northerly flow. At Morro Bay, coastal LLJs were observed primarily during northerly flow as opposed to the predominant north-northwesterly flow. LLJs were observed more frequently in colder seasons within the lowest 250 m above sea level, in contrast with the summertime occurrence of the higher altitude California coastal jet influenced by the North Pacific High.
The lidar buoy observations also support the validation of LLJ representation in atmospheric models that are essential for assessing the potential energy yield of offshore wind farms. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Reanalysis version 5 (ERA5) was unsuccessful at identifying all observed LLJs at both buoy locations within the lowest 200 m. An extension of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) 20-year wind resource dataset for the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California (CA20-Ext) yielded marginally greater captures of observed LLJs using the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) planetary boundary layer (PBL) scheme than the 2023 National Offshore Wind data set (NOW-23) which uses the Yonsei University (YSU) scheme. However, CA20-Ext also produced the most LLJ false alarms. CA20-Ext and NOW-23 exhibited a tendency to overestimate the duration of LLJ events and underestimate LLJ core heights.
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