Instability at the Winter Stratopause: A Mechanism for the 4-Day Wave

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  • 1 Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
  • | 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Studies using, climatological fields in a three-dimensional stability model show unstable modes near the polar winter stratopause with periods neat 4 days. The calculated modes exhibit equatorward momentum and heat fluxes near the stratopause, similar to characteristics of observed 4-day wave events, demonstrating that both baroclinic and barotropic processes are important for this instability. The baroclinic and baratropic components are considered separately by selectively removing either horizontal or vertical shear from the background flow. Although both situations reveal instability, growth rates are very slow; realistic growth rates occur only for climatological flows including both horizontal and vertical shears. Similar unstable, fast-moving waves are found near the polar stratopause for several winter months in both hemispheres.

Abstract

Studies using, climatological fields in a three-dimensional stability model show unstable modes near the polar winter stratopause with periods neat 4 days. The calculated modes exhibit equatorward momentum and heat fluxes near the stratopause, similar to characteristics of observed 4-day wave events, demonstrating that both baroclinic and barotropic processes are important for this instability. The baroclinic and baratropic components are considered separately by selectively removing either horizontal or vertical shear from the background flow. Although both situations reveal instability, growth rates are very slow; realistic growth rates occur only for climatological flows including both horizontal and vertical shears. Similar unstable, fast-moving waves are found near the polar stratopause for several winter months in both hemispheres.

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