Articles | Volume 25, issue 10
06 Nov 2007
 | 06 Nov 2007

Seasonal and nightly variations of gravity-wave energy density in the middle atmosphere measured by the Purple Crow Lidar

R. J. Sica and P. S. Argall

Abstract. The Purple Crow Lidar (PCL) is a large power-aperture product monostatic Rayleigh-Raman-Sodium-resonance-fluorescence lidar, which has been in operation at the Delaware Observatory (42.9° N, 81.4° W, 237 m elevation) near the campus of The University of Western Ontario since 1992. Kinetic-energy density has been calculated from the Rayleigh-scatter system measurements of density fluctuations at temporal-spatial scales relevant for gravity waves, e.g. soundings at 288 m height resolution and 9 min temporal resolution in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere. The seasonal averages from 10 years of measurements show in all seasons some loss of gravity-wave energy in the upper stratosphere. During the equinox periods and summer the measurements are consistent with gravity waves growing in height with little saturation, in agreement with the classic picture of the variations in the height at which gravity waves break given by Lindzen (1981). The mean values compare favourably to previous measurements when computed as nightly averages, but the high temporal-spatial resolution measurements show considerable day-to-day variability. The variability over a night is often extremely large, with typical RMS fluctuations of 50 to 100% at all heights and seasons common. These measurements imply that using a daily or nightly-averaged gravity-wave energy density in numerical models may be highly unrealistic.