Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Frank G. Collins

Committee Members

Basil N. Antar, Uwe Peter Solies


Various methods have been used, including airborne radars, LIDAR, observation of flying birds, towers, tethered balloons, and aircraft to gain both a qualitative and quantitative representation of how heat and moisture are transported to higher altitudes and grow the boundary or mixing layer by thermal updrafts. This paper builds upon that research using an instrumented glider to determine the structure and build a mathematical model of thermals in a desert environment. During these flights, it was discovered that the traditional view of a thermal as a singular rising plume of air did not sufficiently explain what was being observed, but rather another phenomenon was occurring. This paper puts forth the argument and a mathematical model to show that thermals actually take the form of a hexagonal convection cell at higher levels in the convective boundary layer when the thermal acts as if unrestrained by borders as in non-linear cases of free convection.

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