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The Midlatitude Lower-Stratospheric Mountain Wave “Valve Layer”

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  • 1 Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • | 2 Space Science Division, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.
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Abstract

The vertical propagation and attenuation of mountain waves launched by New Zealand terrain during the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) field campaign are investigated. New Zealand mountain waves were frequently attenuated in a lower-stratospheric weak wind layer between z = 15 and 25 km. This layer is termed a “valve layer,” as conditions within this layer (primarily minimum wind speed) control mountain wave momentum flux through it, analogous to a valve controlling mass flux through a pipe. This valve layer is a climatological feature in the wintertime midlatitude lower stratosphere above the subtropical jet.

Mountain wave dynamics within this valve layer are studied using realistic Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations that were extensively validated against research aircraft, radiosonde, and satellite observations. Locally, wave attenuation is horizontally and vertically inhomogeneous, evidenced by numerous regions with wave-induced low Richardson numbers and potential vorticity generation. WRF-simulated gravity wave drag (GWD) is peaked in the valve layer, and momentum flux transmitted through this layer is well approximated by a cubic function of minimum ambient wind speed within it, consistent with linear saturation theory. Valve-layer GWD within the well-validated WRF simulations was 3–6 times larger than that parameterized within MERRA. Previous research suggests increasing parameterized orographic GWD (performed in MERRA2) decreases the stratospheric polar vortex strength by altering planetary wave propagation and drag. The results reported here suggest carefully increasing orographic GWD is warranted, which may help to ameliorate the common cold-pole problem in chemistry–climate models.

© 2016 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author address: Christopher G. Kruse, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 210 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511. E-mail: christopher.kruse@yale.edu

Abstract

The vertical propagation and attenuation of mountain waves launched by New Zealand terrain during the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) field campaign are investigated. New Zealand mountain waves were frequently attenuated in a lower-stratospheric weak wind layer between z = 15 and 25 km. This layer is termed a “valve layer,” as conditions within this layer (primarily minimum wind speed) control mountain wave momentum flux through it, analogous to a valve controlling mass flux through a pipe. This valve layer is a climatological feature in the wintertime midlatitude lower stratosphere above the subtropical jet.

Mountain wave dynamics within this valve layer are studied using realistic Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulations that were extensively validated against research aircraft, radiosonde, and satellite observations. Locally, wave attenuation is horizontally and vertically inhomogeneous, evidenced by numerous regions with wave-induced low Richardson numbers and potential vorticity generation. WRF-simulated gravity wave drag (GWD) is peaked in the valve layer, and momentum flux transmitted through this layer is well approximated by a cubic function of minimum ambient wind speed within it, consistent with linear saturation theory. Valve-layer GWD within the well-validated WRF simulations was 3–6 times larger than that parameterized within MERRA. Previous research suggests increasing parameterized orographic GWD (performed in MERRA2) decreases the stratospheric polar vortex strength by altering planetary wave propagation and drag. The results reported here suggest carefully increasing orographic GWD is warranted, which may help to ameliorate the common cold-pole problem in chemistry–climate models.

© 2016 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author address: Christopher G. Kruse, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 210 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511. E-mail: christopher.kruse@yale.edu
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