Articles | Volume 22, issue 10
03 Nov 2004
 | 03 Nov 2004

Properties of internal planetary-scale inertio gravity waves in the mesosphere

H. G. Mayr, J. G. Mengel, E. R. Talaat, H. S. Porter, and K. L. Chan

Abstract. At high latitudes in the upper mesosphere, horizontal wind oscillations have been observed with periods around 10h. Waves with such a period are generated in our Numerical Spectral Model (NSM), and they are identified as planetary-scale inertio gravity waves (IGW). These IGWs have periods between 9 and 11h and appear above 60km in the zonal mean (m=0), as well as in m=1 to 4, propagating eastward and westward. Under the influence of the Coriolis force, the amplitudes of the waves propagating westward are larger at high latitudes than those propagating eastward. The waves grow in magnitude at least up to about 100km and have vertical wavelengths around 25km. Applying a running window of 15 days for spectral analysis, the amplitudes in the wind field are typically between 10 and 20m/s and can reach 30m/s in the westward propagating component for m=1 at the poles. In the temperature perturbations, the wave amplitudes above 100km are typically 5K and as large as 10K for m=0 at the poles. The IGWs are intermittent but reveal systematic seasonal variations, with the largest amplitudes occurring generally in late winter and spring. Numerical experiments show that such waves are also generated without excitation of the migrating tides. The amplitudes and periods then are similar, indicating that the tides are not essential to generate the waves. However, the seasonal variations without tides are significantly different, which leads to the conclusion that non linear interactions between the semidiurnal tide and planetary waves must contribute to the excitation of the IGWs. Directly or indirectly through the planetary waves, the IGWs are apparently excited by the instabilities that arise in the zonal mean circulation. When the solar heating is turned off for m=0, both the PWs and IGWs essentially disappear. That the IGWs and PWs have common roots in their excitation mechanism is also indicated by the striking similarity of their seasonal variations in the lower mesosphere. Compared to the PWs, however, the planetary-scale IGWs propagate zonally with much larger phase speeds. In contrast to the PWs, the IGWs thus are not affected much by interactions with the background zonal winds whose seasonal variations drastically change with altitude in the mesosphere. Since the IGWs can propagate through the mesosphere without much interaction, except for viscous dissipation, one should then expect that they reach the thermosphere above with significant and measurable amplitudes.