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Albert Hertzog, Claude Basdevant, and François Vial

Abstract

This article estimates the biases and standard deviations of the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40) and the 50-yr National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) Reanalysis (NN50) in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere in 1971–72. These estimates are obtained by comparing the reanalyzed temperatures and winds with EOLE observations, a dataset collected during 480 superpressure-ballon flights in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Dedicated algorithms have been developped to control the quality of this dataset and a stringent selection has been performed on the observations. None of the atmospheric centers has assimilated the EOLE dataset, which is therefore fully independent from the reanalyses. It is furthermore argued that the statistics obtained in this study at the end of the presatellite era may be representative of the reanalysis accuracy since 1957. The results of these comparisons indicate that NN50 tends to be a few degrees colder than the observations in the SH subpolar latitudes, while ERA-40 is less hit by this cold-pole issue. Both reanalyses, on the other hand, are found to be warmer than the observations by about 1 K in the subtropics. In contrast, the wind comparisons only exhibit nonsignificant or small reanalysis biases, even though the reanalyzed subtropical jet is slightly displaced equatorward with respect to the observations. The ability of reanalyses to capture the atmospheric synoptic-scale variability in the upper troposphere is assessed by computing the standard deviations of the reanalysis minus observation differences. The ERA-40 and NN50 standard deviations show a maximum (i.e., a poorer reanalysis accuracy) in the SH storm track. However, ERA-40 standard deviations are found to be much larger than NN50 standard deviations. The standard deviations also exhibit a marked decrease above the continents, stressing the heterogeneity of the atmospheric observation network during the presatellite era. Finally, in contrast with previous studies, the reanalysis accuracy does not appear to be better during summer than during winter.

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Albert Hertzog, M. Joan Alexander, and Riwal Plougonven

Abstract

In this article, long-duration balloon and spaceborne observations, and mesoscale numerical simulations are used to study the intermittency of gravity waves in the lower stratosphere above Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; namely, the characteristics of the gravity wave momentum-flux probability density functions (pdfs) obtained with these three datasets are described. The pdfs consistently exhibit long tails associated with the occurrence of rare and large-amplitude events. The pdf tails are even longer above mountains than above oceanic areas, which is in agreement with previous studies of gravity wave intermittency in this region. It is moreover found that these rare, large-amplitude events represent the main contribution to the total momentum flux during the winter regime of the stratospheric circulation. In contrast, the wave intermittency significantly decreases when stratospheric easterlies develop in late spring and summer. It is also shown that, except above mountainous areas in winter, the momentum-flux pdfs tend to behave like lognormal distributions. Monte Carlo simulations are undertaken to examine the role played by critical levels in influencing the shape of momentum-flux pdfs. In particular, the study finds that the lognormal shape may result from the propagation of a wave spectrum into a varying background wind field that generates the occurrence of frequent critical levels.

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Kevin Hamilton, Albert Hertzog, François Vial, and Georgiy Stenchikov

Abstract

The longitudinal dependence of interannual variations of tropical stratospheric wind is examined in a detailed general circulation model simulation and in the limited observations available. A version of the SKYHI model is run with an imposed zonally symmetric zonal momentum source that forces the zonal-mean zonal wind evolution in the tropical stratosphere to be close to an estimate of the observed zonal wind based on radiosonde observations at Singapore during the period 1978–99. This amounts to a kind of simple assimilation model in which only the zonal-mean wind field in the tropical stratosphere is assimilated, and other quantities are allowed to vary freely. A total of five experiments were run, one covering the full 1978–99 period and four for 1989–99.

The results at and above about 30 hPa are fairly simple to characterize. When the zonal-mean wind near the equator at a particular level is easterly, the monthly mean wind has only very small zonal contrasts. When mean westerlies are present near the equator, significant zonal asymmetries occur at low latitudes, most notably easterly anomalies over South America and westerly anomalies in the eastern Pacific region. These anomalies generally display a continuous meridional phase propagation with the extratropical quasi-stationary eddy field in the winter hemisphere. The net result is a significantly weaker peak-to-peak amplitude of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in zonal wind over the South American sector than over the rest of the equatorial band. The zonal contrast in QBO amplitude near 10 hPa exceeds 10%.

In the lower stratosphere the zonal asymmetries in the prevailing wind are fairly small. Asymmetries seem to reflect the upward extension of the tropospheric Walker circulation, and are less strongly modulated by the quasi-biennial oscillation in zonal-mean circulation.

The model results were checked against limited station observations at Nairobi (1.3°S, 36.7°E), Singapore (1.4°N, 103.9°E), Rochambeau (4.8°N, 52.4°W), and Bogota (4.7°N, 74.1°W). Overall reasonable agreement was found between the monthly mean zonal winds in the model simulation and these station data. The low-latitude wind field in monthly mean NCEP gridded analyses was also examined. These analyses have some obviously unrealistic features in the tropical stratosphere, but some of the behavior seen in the SKYHI model simulations can be identified as well in the NCEP analyses.

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Gillian Boccara, Albert Hertzog, Robert A. Vincent, and François Vial

Abstract

A methodology for estimating gravity wave characteristics from quasi-Lagrangian observations provided by long-duration, superpressure balloon flights in the stratosphere is reviewed. Wavelet analysis techniques are used to detect gravity wave packets in observations of pressure, temperature, and horizontal velocity. An emphasis is put on the estimation of gravity wave momentum fluxes and intrinsic phase speeds, which are generally poorly known on global scales in the atmosphere. The methodology is validated using Monte Carlo simulations of time series that mimic the balloon measurements, including the uncertainties associated with each of the meteorological parameters. While the azimuths of the wave propagation direction are accurately retrieved, the momentum fluxes are generally slightly underestimated, especially when wave packets overlap in the time–frequency domain, or for short-period waves. A proxy is derived to estimate by how much momentum fluxes are reduced by the analysis. Retrievals of intrinsic phase speeds are less accurate, especially for low phase speed waves. A companion paper (Part II) implements the methodology to observations gathered during the Vorcore campaign that took place in Antarctica between September 2005 and February 2006.

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Valérian Jewtoukoff, Riwal Plougonven, Albert Hertzog, Chris Snyder, and Glen Romine

Abstract

Safety compliance issues for operational studies of the atmosphere with balloons require quantifying risks associated with descent and developing strategies to reduce the uncertainties at the location of the touchdown point. Trajectory forecasts are typically computed from weather forecasts produced by an operational center, for example, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. This study uses past experiments to investigate strategies for improving these forecasts. Trajectories for open stratospheric balloon (OSB) short-term flights are computed using mesoscale simulations with the Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) Model initialized with ECMWF operational forecasts and are assimilated with radio soundings using the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART) ensemble Kalman filter, for three case studies during the Strapolété 2009 campaign in Sweden. The results are very variable: in one case, the error in the final simulated position is reduced by 90% relative to the forecast using the ECMWF winds, while in another case the forecast is hardly improved. Nonetheless, they reveal the main source of forecasting error: during the ceiling phase, errors due to unresolved inertia–gravity waves accumulate as the balloon continuously experiences one phase of a wave for a few hours, whereas they essentially average out during the ascent and descent phases, when the balloon rapidly samples through whole wave packets. This sensitivity to wind during the ceiling phase raises issues regarding the feasibility of such forecasts and the observations that would be needed. The ensemble spread is also analyzed, and it is noted that the initial ensemble perturbations should probably be improved in the future for better forecasts.

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Riwal Plougonven, Valérian Jewtoukoff, Alvaro de la Cámara, François Lott, and Albert Hertzog

Abstract

The relationship between gravity wave momentum fluxes and local wind speed is investigated for oceanic regions at high southern latitudes during austral spring. The motivation is to better describe the gravity wave field by identifying a simple relationship between gravity waves and the large-scale flow. The tools used to describe the gravity waves are probability density functions of the gravity wave momentum fluxes. Three independent datasets covering high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere springtime are analyzed: simulations with a mesoscale model, analyses from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, and observations from superpressure balloons of the Concordiasi campaign in 2010. A remarkably robust relation is found, with stronger momentum fluxes much more likely in regions of strong winds. The tails of the probability density functions are well described as lognormal. The median momentum flux increases linearly with background wind speed: for winds stronger than 50 m s−1, the median gravity wave momentum fluxes are about 4 times larger than for winds weaker than 10 m s−1. From model output, this relation is found to be relevant from the tropopause to the midstratosphere at least. The flux dependence on wind speed shows a somewhat steeper slope at higher altitude. Several different processes contribute to this relation, involving both the distribution of sources and the effects of propagation and filtering. It is argued that the location of tropospheric sources is the main contributor in the upper troposphere and lowermost stratosphere and that lateral propagation into regions of strong winds becomes increasingly important above.

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Alvaro de la Cámara, François Lott, Valérian Jewtoukoff, Riwal Plougonven, and Albert Hertzog

Abstract

The austral stratospheric final warming date is often predicted with substantial delay in several climate models. This systematic error is generally attributed to insufficient parameterized gravity wave (GW) drag in the stratosphere around 60°S. A simulation with a general circulation model [Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique zoom model (LMDZ)] with a much less pronounced bias is used to analyze the contribution of the different types of waves to the dynamics of the final warming. For this purpose, the resolved and unresolved wave forcing of the middle atmosphere during the austral spring are examined in LMDZ and reanalysis data, and a good agreement is found between the two datasets. The role of parameterized orographic and nonorographic GWs in LMDZ is further examined, and it is found that orographic and nonorographic GWs contribute evenly to the GW forcing in the stratosphere, unlike in other climate models, where orographic GWs are the main contributor. This result is shown to be in good agreement with GW-resolving operational analysis products. It is demonstrated that the significant contribution of the nonorographic GWs is due to highly intermittent momentum fluxes produced by the source-related parameterizations used in LMDZ, in qualitative agreement with recent observations. This yields sporadic high-amplitude GWs that break in the stratosphere and force the circulation at lower altitudes than more homogeneously distributed nonorographic GW parameterizations do.

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Albert Hertzog, Gillian Boccara, Robert A. Vincent, François Vial, and Philippe Cocquerez

Abstract

The stratospheric gravity wave field in the Southern Hemisphere is investigated by analyzing observations collected by 27 long-duration balloons that flew between September 2005 and February 2006 over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. The analysis is based on the methods introduced by Boccara et al. in a companion paper. Special attention is given to deriving information useful to gravity wave drag parameterizations employed in atmospheric general circulation models. The balloon dataset is used to map the geographic variability of gravity wave momentum fluxes in the lower stratosphere. This flux distribution is found to be very heterogeneous with the largest time-averaged value (28 mPa) observed above the Antarctic Peninsula. This value exceeds by a factor of ∼10 the overall mean momentum flux measured during the balloon campaign. Zonal momentum fluxes were predominantly westward, whereas meridional momentum fluxes were equally northward and southward. A local enhancement of southward flux is nevertheless observed above Adélie Land and is attributed to waves generated by katabatic winds, for which the signature is otherwise rather small in the balloon observations. When zonal averages are performed, oceanic momentum fluxes are found to be of similar magnitude to continental values (2.5–3 mPa), stressing the importance of nonorographic gravity waves over oceans. Last, gravity wave intermittency is investigated. Mountain waves appear to be significantly more sporadic than waves observed above the ocean.

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Valérian Jewtoukoff, Albert Hertzog, Riwal Plougonven, Alvaro de la Cámara, and François Lott

Abstract

The increase of spatial resolution allows the ECMWF operational model to explicitly resolve a significant portion of the atmospheric gravity wave (GW) field, but the realism of the simulated GW field in the ECMWF analyses still needs to be precisely evaluated. Here the authors use data collected during the Concordiasi stratospheric balloon campaign to assess the representation of GWs in the ECMWF analyses over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in spring 2010. The authors first compare the balloonborne GW momentum fluxes with those in ECMWF analyses throughout the campaign and find a correct agreement of the geographical and seasonal patterns. However, the authors also note that ECMWF analyses generally underestimate the balloon fluxes by a factor of 5, which may be essentially due to the spatial truncation of the ECMWF model. Intermittency of wave activity in the analyses and observations are found comparable. These results are confirmed on two case studies dealing with orographic and nonorographic waves, which thus supports that the ECMWF analyses can be used to study the geographical and seasonal distribution of GW momentum fluxes. The authors then used both datasets to provide insights on the missing GW drag at 60°S in general circulation models in the Southern Hemisphere spring. These datasets suggest that a significant part of the missing drag may be associated with nonorographic GWs generated by weather systems above the Southern Ocean.

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Aurélien Podglajen, T. Paul Bui, Jonathan M. Dean-Day, Leonhard Pfister, Eric J. Jensen, M. Joan Alexander, Albert Hertzog, Bernd Kärcher, Riwal Plougonven, and William J. Randel

Abstract

The contribution of turbulent mixing to heat and tracer transport in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) is poorly constrained, partly owing to a lack of direct observations. Here, the authors use high-resolution (20 Hz) airborne measurements to study the occurrence and properties of small-scale (<100 m) wind fluctuations in the TTL (14–19 km) over the tropical Pacific. The fluctuations are highly intermittent and appear localized within shallow (100 m) patches. Furthermore, active turbulent events are more frequent at low altitude, near deep convection, and within layers of low gradient Richardson number. A case study emphasizes the link between the turbulent events and the occurrence of inertio-gravity waves having small horizontal or vertical scale. To evaluate the impact of the observed fluctuations on tracer mixing, their characteristics are examined. During active events, they are in broad agreement with inertial-range turbulence theory: the motions are close to 3D isotropic and the spectra follow a −5/3 power-law scaling. The diffusivity induced by turbulent bursts is estimated to be on the order of 10−1 m2 s−1 and increases from the top to the bottom of the TTL (from ~2 × 10−2 to ~3 × 10−1 m2 s−1). Given the uncertainties involved in the estimate, this is in reasonable agreement (about a factor of 3–4 lower) with the parameterized turbulent diffusivity in ERA-Interim, but it disagrees with other observational estimates from radar and radiosondes. The magnitude of the consequent vertical transport depends on the altitude and the tracer; for the species considered, it is generally smaller than that induced by the mean tropical upwelling.

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