Articles | Volume 24, issue 4
Special issue:
03 Jul 2006
 | 03 Jul 2006

Gravity waves in the middle atmosphere during the MaCWAVE winter campaign: evidence of mountain wave critical level encounters

L. Wang, D. C. Fritts, B. P. Williams, R. A. Goldberg, F. J. Schmidlin, and U. Blum

Abstract. Falling sphere and balloon wind and temperature data from the MaCWAVE winter campaign, which was conducted in northern Scandinavia during January 2003, are analyzed to investigate gravity wave characteristics in the stratosphere and mesosphere. There were two stratospheric warming events occurring during the campaign, one having a maximum temperature perturbation at ~45 km during 17–19 January, and the other having a maximum perturbation at ~30 km during 24–27 January. The former was a major event, whereas the latter was a minor one. Both warmings were accompanied by upper mesospheric coolings, and during the second warming, the upper mesospheric cooling propagated downward. Falling sphere data from the two salvos on 24–25 January and 28 January were analyzed for gravity wave characteristics. Gravity wave perturbations maximized at ~45–50 km, with a secondary maximum at ~60 km during Salvo 1; for Salvo 2, wave activity was most pronounced at ~60 km and above.

Gravity wave horizontal propagation directions are estimated using the conventional hodographic analysis combined with the S-transform (a Gaussian wavelet analysis method). The results are compared with those from a Stokes analysis. They agree in general, though the former appears to provide better estimates for some cases, likely due to the capability of the S-transform to obtain robust estimates of wave amplitudes and phase differences between different fields.

For Salvo 1 at ~60 km and above, gravity waves propagated towards the southeast, whereas for Salvo 2 at similar altitudes, waves propagated predominantly towards the northwest or west. These waves were found not to be topographic waves. Gravity wave motions at ~45–50 km in Salvo 1 were more complicated, but they generally had large amplitudes, short vertical scales, and their hodographs revealed a northwest-southeast orientation. In addition, the ratios between wave amplitudes and intrinsic phase speeds generally displayed a marked peak at ~45–50 km and decreased sharply at ~50 km, where the background winds were very weak. These results suggest that these wave motions were most likely topographic waves approaching their critical levels. Waves were more nearly isotropic in the lower stratosphere.

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