Articles | Volume 28, issue 5
06 May 2010
 | 06 May 2010

Latitudinal and seasonal variations of lower atmospheric inertial gravity wave energy revealed by US radiosonde data

S. D. Zhang, F. Yi, C. M. Huang, and Q. Zhou

Abstract. The latitudinal and seasonal variations of gravity wave (GW) potential energy density (EP), kinetic energy density (EK), and total energy density (ET), i.e, the sum of potential and kinetic energy densities in the tropospheric (typically 2–10 km) and lower stratospheric (typically 18–25 km) segments have been derived from 10 years (1998–2007) of radiosonde observations over 92 United States stations in the Northern Hemisphere. The latitudinal variation of EP in the lower stratosphere is in good agreement with satellite observations. However, EK and ET in the lower stratosphere are different from satellite observations and the difference is believed to be linked with the latitudinal dependence of GW sources. Our analysis reveals that GW energy properties exhibit distinctive latitudinal and seasonal variations. The upward-propagating GW energy in the troposphere is larger than that in the lower stratosphere at low latitudes but the opposite holds true at high latitudes. The transition latitude, where the upward- propagating energies in the two altitude regions are the same, occurs at 35° N throughout the year. So striking differences between GW activity in the troposphere and lower stratosphere are not likely explained only by the background wind Doppler shifting due to strong tropospheric jets. Our analysis indicates that the region around tropopause, roughly from 10 km to 18 km, is an important source region, especially at latitudes below 35° N. Our studies strongly suggest that in order to fully understand the global GW activity in the lower atmosphere, the GW kinetic energy and its geographical and seasonal variations should be included, and more attention should be given to GWs in the troposphere and GW sources within the intermediate region, especially the upper troposphere.