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Andreas Dörnbrack, Stephen D. Eckermann, Bifford P. Williams, and Julie Haggerty


Stratospheric gravity waves observed during the DEEPWAVE research flight RF25 over the Southern Ocean are analyzed and compared with numerical weather prediction (NWP) model results. The quantitative agreement of the NWP model output and the tropospheric and lower-stratospheric observations is remarkable. The high-resolution NWP models are even able to reproduce qualitatively the observed upper-stratospheric gravity waves detected by an airborne Rayleigh lidar. The usage of high-resolution ERA5 data—partially capturing the long internal gravity waves—enabled a thorough interpretation of the particular event. Here, the observed and modeled gravity waves are excited by the stratospheric flow past a deep tropopause depression belonging to an eastward-propagating Rossby wave train. In the reference frame of the propagating Rossby wave, vertically propagating hydrostatic gravity waves appear stationary; in reality, of course, they are transient and propagate horizontally at the phase speed of the Rossby wave. The subsequent refraction of these transient gravity waves into the polar night jet explains their observed and modeled patchy stratospheric occurrence near 60°S. The combination of both unique airborne observations and high-resolution NWP output provides evidence for the one case investigated in this paper. As the excitation of such gravity waves persists during the quasi-linear propagation phase of the Rossby wave’s life cycle, a hypothesis is formulated that parts of the stratospheric gravity wave belt over the Southern Ocean might be generated by such Rossby wave trains propagating along the midlatitude waveguide.

Open access
Tyler Mixa, Andreas Dörnbrack, and Markus Rapp


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