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Aviation Glossary :: Boundary Layer  Aviation Glossary :: Boundary Layer FAA Written Test Preparation
Aviation Glossary Welcome to the Dauntless Aviation Glossary!

At Dauntless, our editorial staff maintains the web's largest unified glossary of aviation terms. This glossary is built from a combination of official, quasi-official, and proprietary sources (including original material that we develop oursselves). Uniquely, we often provide multiple definitions of a given term so that you can find that which best applies to you. In order to maximize your learning efficiency, this glossary (and similar ones for our international users) is incresingly fully integrated into our aviation learning apps, including our FAA written test prep and FAA practical test prep software and apps. If you like this glossary, you'll love them with their polished learning environments and world's best and clearest content (please do give them a try.).

Boundary Layer
Boundary Layer
The layer of air that flows next to an aerodynamic surface. Because of the design of the surface and local surface roughness, the boundary layer often has a random flow pattern, sometimes even flowing in a direction opposite to the direction of flight. A turbulent boundary layer causes a great deal of aerodynamic drag.
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source: FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician Airframe Handbook (FAA-H-8083-31)

In general, a layer of air adjacent to a bounding surface. Specifically, the term most often refers to the planetary boundary layer, which is the layer within which the effects of friction are significant. For the earth, this layer is considered to be roughly the lowest one or two kilometers of the atmosphere. It is within this layer that temperatures are most strongly affected by daytime insolation and nighttime radiational cooling, and winds are affected by friction with the earth's surface. The effects of friction die out gradually with increasing height, so the "top" of this layer cannot be defined exactly.

There is a thin layer immediately above the earth's surface known as the surface boundary layer (or simply the surface layer). This layer is only a portion of the planetary boundary layer, and represents the layer within which friction effects are more or less constant throughout (as opposed to decreasing with height, as they do above it). The surface boundary layer is roughly 10 meters thick (from the surface up to 10 m above the ground), but again the exact depth is indeterminate. Like friction, the effects of insolation and radiational cooling are strongest within this layer.

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source: NOAA National Weather Service Glossary


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Disclaimer: While this glossary in most cases is likely to be highly accurate and useful, sometimes, for any number of editorial, transcription, technical, and other reasons, it might not be. Additionally, as somtimes you may have found yourself brought to this page through an automated term matching system, you may find definitions here that do not match the cotext or application in which you saw the original term. Please use your good judgement when using this resource.


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