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Martina Bramberger, Andreas Dörnbrack, Henrike Wilms, Steffen Gemsa, Kevin Raynor, and Robert Sharman

Abstract

Stall warnings at flight level 410 (12.5 km) occurred unexpectedly during a research flight of the High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft (HALO) over Italy on 12 January 2016. The dangerous flight situation was mitigated by pilot intervention. At the incident location, the stratosphere was characterized by large horizontal variations in the along-track wind speed and temperature. On this particular day, strong northwesterly winds in the lower troposphere in concert with an aligned polar front jet favored the excitation and vertical propagation of large-amplitude mountain waves at and above the Apennines in Italy. These mountain waves carried large vertical energy fluxes of 8 W m−2 and propagated without significant dissipation from the troposphere into the stratosphere. While turbulence is a well-acknowledged hazard to aviation, this case study reveals that nonbreaking, vertically propagating mountain waves also pose a potential hazard, especially to high-flying aircraft. It is the wave-induced modulation of the ambient along-track wind speed that may decrease the aircraft speed toward the minimum needed stall speed.

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