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

Abstract

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
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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David C. Fritts
,
Gerd Baumgarten
,
P.-Dominique Pautet
,
James H. Hecht
,
Bifford P. Williams
,
Natalie Kaifler
,
Bernd Kaifler
,
C. Bjorn Kjellstrand
,
Ling Wang
,
Michael J. Taylor
, and
Amber D. Miller

Abstract

Multiple recent observations in the mesosphere have revealed large-scale Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities (KHI) exhibiting diverse spatial features and temporal evolutions. The first event reported by Hecht et al. exhibited multiple features resembling those seen to arise in early laboratory shear-flow studies described as “tube” and “knot” (T&K) dynamics by Thorpe. The potential importance of T&K dynamics in the atmosphere, and in the oceans and other stratified and sheared fluids, is due to their accelerated turbulence transitions and elevated energy dissipation rates relative to KHI turbulence transitions occurring in their absence. Motivated by these studies, we survey recent observational evidence of multiscale Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities throughout the atmosphere, many features of which closely resemble T&K dynamics observed in the laboratory and idealized initial modeling. These efforts will guide further modeling assessing the potential importance of these T&K dynamics in turbulence generation, energy dissipation, and mixing throughout the atmosphere and other fluids. We expect these dynamics to have implications for parameterizing mixing and transport in stratified shear flows in the atmosphere and oceans that have not been considered to date. Companion papers describe results of a multiscale gravity wave direct numerical simulation (DNS) that serendipitously exhibits a number of KHI T&K events and an idealized multiscale DNS of KHI T&K dynamics without gravity wave influences.

Significance Statement

Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities (KHI) occur throughout the atmosphere and induce turbulence and mixing that need to be represented in weather prediction and other models of the atmosphere and oceans. This paper documents recent atmospheric evidence for widespread, more intense, features of KHI dynamics that arise where KH billows are initially discontinuous, misaligned, or varying along their axes. These features initiate strong local vortex interactions described as “tubes” and “knots” in early laboratory experiments, suggested by, but not recognized in, earlier atmospheric and oceanic profiling, and only recently confirmed in newer, high-resolution atmospheric imaging and idealized modeling to date.

Open access
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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David C. Fritts
,
Ronald B. Smith
,
Michael J. Taylor
,
James D. Doyle
,
Stephen D. Eckermann
,
Andreas Dörnbrack
,
Markus Rapp
,
Bifford P. Williams
,
P.-Dominique Pautet
,
Katrina Bossert
,
Neal R. Criddle
,
Carolyn A. Reynolds
,
P. Alex Reinecke
,
Michael Uddstrom
,
Michael J. Revell
,
Richard Turner
,
Bernd Kaifler
,
Johannes S. Wagner
,
Tyler Mixa
,
Christopher G. Kruse
,
Alison D. Nugent
,
Campbell D. Watson
,
Sonja Gisinger
,
Steven M. Smith
,
Ruth S. Lieberman
,
Brian Laughman
,
James J. Moore
,
William O. Brown
,
Julie A. Haggerty
,
Alison Rockwell
,
Gregory J. Stossmeister
,
Steven F. Williams
,
Gonzalo Hernandez
,
Damian J. Murphy
,
Andrew R. Klekociuk
,
Iain M. Reid
, and
Jun Ma

Abstract

The Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) was designed to quantify gravity wave (GW) dynamics and effects from orographic and other sources to regions of dissipation at high altitudes. The core DEEPWAVE field phase took place from May through July 2014 using a comprehensive suite of airborne and ground-based instruments providing measurements from Earth’s surface to ∼100 km. Austral winter was chosen to observe deep GW propagation to high altitudes. DEEPWAVE was based on South Island, New Zealand, to provide access to the New Zealand and Tasmanian “hotspots” of GW activity and additional GW sources over the Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea. To observe GWs up to ∼100 km, DEEPWAVE utilized three new instruments built specifically for the National Science Foundation (NSF)/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Gulfstream V (GV): a Rayleigh lidar, a sodium resonance lidar, and an advanced mesosphere temperature mapper. These measurements were supplemented by in situ probes, dropsondes, and a microwave temperature profiler on the GV and by in situ probes and a Doppler lidar aboard the German DLR Falcon. Extensive ground-based instrumentation and radiosondes were deployed on South Island, Tasmania, and Southern Ocean islands. Deep orographic GWs were a primary target but multiple flights also observed deep GWs arising from deep convection, jet streams, and frontal systems. Highlights include the following: 1) strong orographic GW forcing accompanying strong cross-mountain flows, 2) strong high-altitude responses even when orographic forcing was weak, 3) large-scale GWs at high altitudes arising from jet stream sources, and 4) significant flight-level energy fluxes and often very large momentum fluxes at high altitudes.

Full access