Articles | Volume 27, issue 7
14 Jul 2009
 | 14 Jul 2009

Kelvin-Helmholtz billows and their effects on mean state during gravity wave propagation

X. Liu, J. Xu, H. Gao, and G. Chen

Abstract. The Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) billows which appear in the process of gravity wave (GW) propagation are simulated directly by using a compressible nonlinear two-dimensional gravity wave model. The differences between our model and others include: the background field has no special initial configuration and there is no initial triggering mechanism needed in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region to excite the KH billows. However, the initial triggering mechanism is performed in the lower atmosphere through GW, which then propagate into the MLT region and form billows. The braid structures and overturning of KH billows, caused by nonlinear interactions between GWs and mean flow, can be resolved precisely by the model. These results support the findings in airglow studies that GWs propagating from below into the MLT region are important sources of KH billows. The onset of small scale waves and the wave energy transfer induce the shallower vertical wave number power spectral densities (PSD). However, most of the slopes are steeper than the expected kz−3 power law, which indicates that GWs with 10 km vertical wavelength are still a dominant mode. The results also show that the evolution of mean wind vary substantially between the different processes of GWs propagation. Before the KH billows evolve, the mean wind is accelerated greatly by GWs. By contrast, as the KH billows evolve and mix with mean flow, the mean wind and its peak value decrease.