The terra incognita (TI) or grey zone arises in conventional planetary boundary-layer parametrizations when the grid resolution of a numerical model is comparable to the size of the energy-containing turbulent eddies $$\sim $$∼1 km or less. Here, we investigate a simple, plausible extension of the Mellor–Yamada (MY) level-3 scheme for TI-scale grid size using a large-eddy simulation (LES) as a benchmark. Horizontal filtering of the benchmark simulation data for the dry convective mixed layer in the free convection regime yields subfilter-scale components whose statistics are then retrieved for various filter sizes. This leads to a modified MY level-3 scheme for TI-scale grid sizes. The proposed TI scheme incorporates: (1) modification of various length scales in the conventional MY scheme by an empirical function that depends on the horizontal grid size normalized by the convective boundary-layer height; (2) a new length scale for horizontal turbulent fluxes; and (3) a linear relationship between the local dissipation length and subfilter-scale turbulent kinetic energy. A posteriori tests of the proposed TI scheme show a much improved performance compared with the conventional MY level-3 scheme. The ratio of the grid-scale to the subgrid-scale turbulent intensity is comparable to that obtained from the filtered LES solutions. Sensitivity tests show that the modification of the dissipation length scales has the largest impact, while the new length scale for horizontal fluxes also proves important. A simulation that includes all of the above modifications results in the optimum performance.
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