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Nonlinear Simulations of Gravity Wave Tunneling and Breaking over Auckland Island

Tyler Mixa, Andreas Dörnbrack, and Markus Rapp

Abstract

Horizontally dispersing gravity waves with horizontal wavelengths of 30–40 km were observed at mesospheric altitudes over Auckland Island by the airborne advanced mesospheric temperature mapper during a Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) research flight on 14 July 2014. A 3D nonlinear compressible model is used to determine which propagation conditions enabled gravity wave penetration into the mesosphere and how the resulting instability characteristics led to widespread momentum deposition. Results indicate that linear tunneling through the polar night jet enabled quick gravity wave propagation from the surface up to the mesopause, while subsequent instability processes reveal large rolls that formed in the negative shear above the jet maximum and led to significant momentum deposition as they descended. This study suggests that gravity wave tunneling is a viable source for this case and other deep propagation events reaching the mesosphere and lower thermosphere.

Open access
Johnathan J. Metz, Dale R. Durran, and Peter N. Blossey

Abstract

Simulations of the weather over the South Island of New Zealand on 28 July 2014 reveal unusual wave activity in the stratosphere. A series of short-wavelength perturbations resembling trapped lee waves were located downstream of the topography, but these waves were in the stratosphere, and their crests were oriented north–south, in contrast to both the northeast–southwest orientation of the spine of the Southern Alps and the crests of trapped waves present in the lower troposphere. Vertical cross sections through these waves show a nodal structure consistent with that of a higher-order trapped-wave mode. Eigenmode solutions to the vertical structure equation for two-dimensional, linear, Boussinesq waves were obtained for a horizontally homogeneous sounding representative of the 28 July case. These solutions include higher-order modes having large amplitude in the stratosphere that are supported by just the zonal wind component. Two of these higher-order modes correspond to trapped waves that develop in an idealized numerical simulation of the 28 July 2014 case. These higher-order modes are trapped by very strong westerly winds in the midstratosphere and are triggered by north–south-oriented features in the subrange-scale topography. In contrast, the stratospheric cross-mountain wind component is too weak to trap similar high-order modes with crest-parallel orientation.

Free access
Qingfang Jiang, James D. Doyle, Stephen D. Eckermann, and Bifford P. Williams

Abstract

Gravity waves are frequently observed in the stratosphere, trailing long distances from mid- to high-latitude topography. Two such trailing-wave events documented over New Zealand are examined using observations, numerical simulations, and ray-tracing analysis to explore and document stratospheric trailing-wave characteristics and formation mechanisms. We find that the trailing waves over New Zealand are orographically generated and regulated by several processes, including interaction between terrain and mountaintop winds, critical-level absorption, and lateral wave refraction. Among these, the interaction between topography and low-level winds determines the perturbation energy distribution over horizontal scales and directions near the wave source, and accordingly, trailing waves are sensitive to terrain features and low-level winds. Terrain-forced wave modes are filtered by absorption associated with directional wind shear and Jones critical levels. The former plays a role in defining wave-beam orientation, and the latter sets an upper limit for the permissible horizontal wavelength of trailing waves. On propagating into the stratosphere, these orographic gravity waves are subject to horizontal refraction associated with the meridional shear in the stratospheric westerlies, which tends to elongate the wave beams pointing toward stronger westerlies and shorten the wave beams on the opposite side.

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Ronald B. Smith and Christopher G. Kruse

Abstract

We propose a simplified scheme to predict mountain wave drag over complex terrain using only the regional-average low-level wind components U and V. The scheme is tuned and tested on data from the South Island of New Zealand, a rough and highly anisotropic terrain. The effect of terrain anisotropy is captured with a hydrostatically computed, 2 × 2 positive-definite wave drag matrix. The wave drag vector is the product of the wind vector and the drag matrix. The nonlinearity in wave generation is captured using a Gaussian terrain smoothing inversely proportional to wind speed. Wind speeds of |U| = 10, 20, and 30 m s−1 give smoothing scales of L = 54, 27, and 18 km, respectively. This smoothing treatment of nonlinearity is consistent with recent aircraft data and high-resolution numerical modeling of waves over New Zealand, indicating that the momentum flux spectra shift to shorter waves during high-drag conditions. The drag matrix model is tested against a 3-month time series of realistic full-physics wave-resolving flow calculations. Correlation coefficients approach 0.9 for both zonal and meridional drag components.

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Christopher G. Kruse and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

Mountain waves (MWs) are generated during episodic cross-barrier flow over broad-spectrum terrain. However, most MW drag parameterizations neglect transient, broad-spectrum dynamics. Here, the influences of these dynamics on both nondissipative and dissipative momentum deposition by MW events are quantified in a 2D, horizontally periodic idealized framework. The influences of the MW spectrum, vertical wind shear, and forcing duration are investigated. MW events are studied using three numerical models—the nonlinear, transient WRF Model; a linear, quasi-transient Fourier-ray model; and an optimally tuned Lindzen-type saturation parameterization—allowing quantification of total, nondissipative, and dissipative MW-induced decelerations, respectively. Additionally, a pseudomomentum diagnostic is used to estimate nondissipative decelerations within the WRF solutions. For broad-spectrum MWs, vertical dispersion controls spectrum evolution aloft. Short MWs propagate upward quickly and break first at the highest altitudes. Subsequently, the arrival of additional longer MWs allows breaking at lower altitudes because of their greater contribution to u variance. As a result, minimum breaking levels descend with time and event duration. In zero- and positive-shear environments, this descent is not smooth but proceeds downward in steps as a result of vertically recurring steepening levels. Nondissipative decelerations are nonnegligible and influence an MW’s approach to breaking, but breaking and dissipative decelerations quickly develop and dominate the subsequent evolution. Comparison of the three model solutions suggests that the conventional instant propagation and monochromatic parameterization assumptions lead to too much MW drag at too low an altitude.

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Ronald B. Smith and Christopher G. Kruse

Abstract

Recent airborne mountain-wave measurements over New Zealand in the lower stratosphere during the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) campaign allow for improved spectral analysis of velocities u, υ, and w, pressure p, and temperature T fluctuations. Striking characteristics of these data are the spectral breadth and the different spectral shapes of the different physical quantities. Using idealized complex terrain as a guide, the spectra are divided into the long-wave “volume mode” arising from airflow over the whole massif and the short-wave “roughness mode” arising from flow into and out of valleys. The roughness mode is evident in the aircraft data as an intense band of w power from horizontal wavelength λ = 8–40 km. The shorter part of this band (i.e., λ = 8–15 km) falls near the nonhydrostatic buoyancy cutoff (λ = 2πU/N). It penetrates easily into the lower stratosphere but carries little u power or momentum flux. The longer part of this roughness mode (i.e., λ = 15–40 km) carries most of the wave momentum flux. The volume mode for New Zealand, in the range λ = 200–400 km, is detected using the u-power, p-power, and T-power spectra. Typically, the volume mode carries a third or less of the total wave momentum flux, but it dominates the u power and thus may control the wave breakdown aloft. Spectra from numerical simulations agree with theory and aircraft data. Problems with the monochromatic assumption for wave observation and momentum flux parameterization are discussed.

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Christopher G. Kruse, Ronald B. Smith, and Stephen D. Eckermann

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.

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Stephen D. Eckermann, Dave Broutman, Jun Ma, James D. Doyle, Pierre-Dominique Pautet, Michael J. Taylor, Katrina Bossert, Bifford P. Williams, David C. Fritts, and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

On 14 July 2014 during the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE), aircraft remote sensing instruments detected large-amplitude gravity wave oscillations within mesospheric airglow and sodium layers at altitudes z ~ 78–83 km downstream of the Auckland Islands, located ~1000 km south of Christchurch, New Zealand. A high-altitude reanalysis and a three-dimensional Fourier gravity wave model are used to investigate the dynamics of this event. At 0700 UTC when the first observations were made, surface flow across the islands’ terrain generated linear three-dimensional wave fields that propagated rapidly to z ~ 78 km, where intense breaking occurred in a narrow layer beneath a zero-wind region at z ~ 83 km. In the following hours, the altitude of weak winds descended under the influence of a large-amplitude migrating semidiurnal tide, leading to intense breaking of these wave fields in subsequent observations starting at 1000 UTC. The linear Fourier model constrained by upstream reanalysis reproduces the salient aspects of observed wave fields, including horizontal wavelengths, phase orientations, temperature and vertical displacement amplitudes, heights and locations of incipient wave breaking, and momentum fluxes. Wave breaking has huge effects on local circulations, with inferred layer-averaged westward flow accelerations of ~350 m s−1 h−1 and dynamical heating rates of ~8 K h−1, supporting recent speculation of important impacts of orographic gravity waves from subantarctic islands on the mean circulation and climate of the middle atmosphere during austral winter.

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Ronald B. Smith, Alison D. Nugent, Christopher G. Kruse, David C. Fritts, James D. Doyle, Steven D. Eckermann, Michael J. Taylor, Andreas Dörnbrack, M. Uddstrom, William Cooper, Pavel Romashkin, Jorgen Jensen, and Stuart Beaton

Abstract

During the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) project in June and July 2014, the Gulfstream V research aircraft flew 97 legs over the Southern Alps of New Zealand and 150 legs over the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean, mostly in the low stratosphere at 12.1-km altitude. Improved instrument calibration, redundant sensors, longer flight legs, energy flux estimation, and scale analysis revealed several new gravity wave properties. Over the sea, flight-level wave fluxes mostly fell below the detection threshold. Over terrain, disturbances had characteristic mountain wave attributes of positive vertical energy flux (EFz), negative zonal momentum flux, and upwind horizontal energy flux. In some cases, the fluxes changed rapidly within an 8-h flight, even though environmental conditions were nearly unchanged. The largest observed zonal momentum and vertical energy fluxes were MFx = −550 mPa and EFz = 22 W m−2, respectively.

A wide variety of disturbance scales were found at flight level over New Zealand. The vertical wind variance at flight level was dominated by short “fluxless” waves with wavelengths in the 6–15-km range. Even shorter scales, down to 500 m, were found in wave breaking regions. The wavelength of the flux-carrying mountain waves was much longer—mostly between 60 and 150 km. In the strong cases, however, with EFz > 4 W m−2, the dominant flux wavelength decreased (i.e., “downshifted”) to an intermediate wavelength between 20 and 60 km. A potential explanation for the rapid flux changes and the scale “downshifting” is that low-level flow can shift between “terrain following” and “envelope following” associated with trapped air in steep New Zealand valleys.

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Christopher G. Kruse and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

As numerical models of complex atmospheric flows increase their quality and resolution, it becomes valuable to isolate and quantify the embedded resolved gravity waves. The authors propose a spatial filtering method combined with a selection of quadratic diagnostic quantities such as heat, momentum, and energy fluxes to do this. These covariant quantities were found to be insensitive to filter cutoff length scales between 300 and 700 km, suggesting the existence of a “cospectral gap.” The gravity waves identified with the proposed method display known properties from idealized studies, including vertical propagation, upwind propagation, the relationship between momentum and energy flux, and agreement with fluxes derived from an alternative method involving simulations with and without terrain. The proposed method is applied to 2- and 6-km-resolution realistic WRF simulations of orographic and nonorographic gravity waves over and around New Zealand within complex frontal cyclones. Deep mountain wave, shallow mountain wave, jet-generated gravity wave, and convection-generated gravity wave events were chosen for analysis. The four wave events shared the characteristics of positive vertical energy flux, negative zonal momentum flux, and upwind horizontal energy flux. Two of the gravity wave events were dissipated nonlinearly.

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