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Alison W. Grimsdell, M. Joan Alexander, Peter T. May, and Lars Hoffmann


Atmospheric gravity waves have a major effect on atmospheric circulation, structure, and stability on a global scale. Gravity waves can be generated by convection, but in many cases it is difficult to link convection directly to a specific wave event. In this research, the authors examine an event on 12 January 2003 when convective waves were clearly generated by a period of extremely intense rainfall in the region of Darwin, Australia, during the early morning. The waves were observed by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on board the Aqua satellite, and a dry version of a nonlinear, three-dimensional mesoscale cloud-resolving model is used to generate a comparable wave field. The model is forced by a spatially and temporally varying heating field obtained from a scanning radar located north of Darwin at Gunn Point. With typical cloud-resolving model studies it is generally not possible to compare the model results feature-for-feature with observations since although the model precipitation and small-scale heating may be similar to observations, they will occur at different locations and times. In this case the comparison is possible since the model is forced by the observed heating pattern. It is shown that the model output wave pattern corresponds well to the wave pattern observed by the AIRS instrument at the time of the AIRS overpass.

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Claudia Christine Stephan, Cornelia Strube, Daniel Klocke, Manfred Ern, Lars Hoffmann, Peter Preusse, and Hauke Schmidt


Large uncertainties remain with respect to the representation of atmospheric gravity waves (GWs) in general circulation models (GCMs) with coarse grids. Insufficient parameterizations result from a lack of observational constraints on the parameters used in GW parameterizations as well as from physical inconsistencies between parameterizations and reality. For instance, parameterizations make oversimplifying assumptions about the generation and propagation of GWs. Increasing computational capabilities now allow GCMs to run at grid spacings that are sufficiently fine to resolve a major fraction of the GW spectrum. This study presents the first intercomparison of resolved GW pseudomomentum fluxes (GWMFs) in global convection-permitting simulations and those derived from satellite observations. Six simulations of three different GCMs are analyzed over the period of one month of August to assess the sensitivity of GWMF to model formulation and horizontal grid spacing. The simulations reproduce detailed observed features of the global GWMF distribution, which can be attributed to realistic GWs from convection, orography, and storm tracks. Yet the GWMF magnitudes differ substantially between simulations. Differences in the strength of convection may help explain differences in the GWMF between simulations of the same model in the summer low latitudes where convection is the primary source. Across models, there is no evidence for a systematic change with resolution. Instead, GWMF is strongly affected by model formulation. The results imply that validating the realism of simulated GWs across the entire resolved spectrum will remain a difficult challenge not least because of a lack of appropriate observational data.

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Christopher G. Kruse, M. Joan Alexander, Lars Hoffmann, Annelize van Niekerk, Inna Polichtchouk, Julio T. Bacmeister, Laura Holt, Riwal Plougonven, Petr Šácha, Corwin Wright, Kaoru Sato, Ryosuke Shibuya, Sonja Gisinger, Manfred Ern, Catrin I. Meyer, and Olaf Stein


Four state-of-the-science numerical weather prediction (NWP) models were used to perform mountain wave (MW)-resolving hindcasts over the Drake Passage of a 10-day period in 2010 with numerous observed MW cases. The Integrated Forecast System (IFS) and the Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic (ICON) model were run at Δx ≈ 9 and 13 km globally. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model and the Met Office Unified Model (UM) were both configured with a Δx = 3-km regional domain. All domains had tops near 1 Pa (z ≈ 80 km). These deep domains allowed quantitative validation against Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) observations, accounting for observation time, viewing geometry, and radiative transfer. All models reproduced observed middle-atmosphere MWs with remarkable skill. Increased horizontal resolution improved validations. Still, all models underrepresented observed MW amplitudes, even after accounting for model effective resolution and instrument noise, suggesting even at Δx ≈ 3-km resolution, small-scale MWs are underresolved and/or overdiffused. MW drag parameterizations are still necessary in NWP models at current operational resolutions of Δx ≈ 10 km. Upper GW sponge layers in the operationally configured models significantly, artificially reduced MW amplitudes in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere. In the IFS, parameterized GW drags partly compensated this deficiency, but still, total drags were ≈6 times smaller than that resolved at Δx ≈ 3 km. Meridionally propagating MWs significantly enhance zonal drag over the Drake Passage. Interestingly, drag associated with meridional fluxes of zonal momentum (i.e., uυ¯) were important; not accounting for these terms results in a drag in the wrong direction at and below the polar night jet.

Significance Statement

This study had three purposes: to quantitatively evaluate how well four state-of-the-science weather models could reproduce observed mountain waves (MWs) in the middle atmosphere, to compare the simulated MWs within the models, and to quantitatively evaluate two MW parameterizations in a widely used climate model. These models reproduced observed MWs with remarkable skill. Still, MW parameterizations are necessary in current Δx ≈ 10-km resolution global weather models. Even Δx ≈ 3-km resolution does not appear to be high enough to represent all momentum-fluxing MW scales. Meridionally propagating MWs can significantly influence zonal winds over the Drake Passage. Parameterizations that handle horizontal propagation may need to consider horizontal fluxes of horizontal momentum in order to get the direction of their forcing correct.

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