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

Abstract

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

Abstract

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.

Open access
Claudia C. Stephan, M. Joan Alexander, Michael Hedlin, Catherine D. de Groot-Hedlin, and Lars Hoffmann

Abstract

Mesoscale gravity waves were observed by barometers deployed as part of the USArray Transportable Array on 29 June 2011 near two mesoscale convective systems in the Great Plains region of the United States. Simultaneously, AIRS satellite data indicated stratospheric gravity waves propagating away from the location of active convection. Peak perturbation pressure values associated with waves propagating outside of regions where there was precipitation reached amplitudes close to 400 Pa at the surface. Here the origins of the waves and their relationship to observed precipitation are investigated with a specialized model study. Simulations with a 4-km resolution dry numerical model reproduce the propagation characteristics and amplitudes of the observed waves with a high degree of quantitative similarity despite the absence of any boundary layer processes, surface topography, or moist physics in the model. The model is forced with a three-dimensional, time-dependent latent heating/cooling field that mimics the latent heating inside the precipitation systems. The heating is derived from the network of weather radar precipitation observations. This shows that deep, intense latent heat release within the precipitation systems is the key forcing mechanism for the waves observed at ground level by the USArray. Furthermore, the model simulations allow for a more detailed investigation of the vertical structure and propagation characteristics of the waves. It is found that the stratospheric and tropospheric waves are triggered by the same sources, but have different spectral properties. Results also suggest that the propagating tropospheric waves may potentially remotely interact with and enhance active precipitation.

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Steven D. Miller, William C. Straka III, Jia Yue, Curtis J. Seaman, Shuang Xu, Christopher D. Elvidge, Lars Hoffmann, and Irfan Azeem

Abstract

Hurricane Matthew (28 September–9 October 2016) was perhaps the most infamous storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, claiming over 600 lives and causing over $15 billion (U.S. dollars) in damages across the central Caribbean and southeastern U.S. seaboard. Research surrounding Matthew and its many noteworthy meteorological characteristics (e.g., rapid intensification into the southernmost category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin on record, strong lightning and sprite production, and unusual cloud morphology) is ongoing. Satellite remote sensing typically plays an important role in the forecasting and study of hurricanes, providing a top-down perspective on storms developing over the remote and inherently data-sparse tropical oceans. In this regard, a relative newcomer among the suite of satellite observations useful for tropical cyclone monitoring and research is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) day/night band (DNB), a sensor flying on board the NOAA–NASA Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (SNPP) satellite. Unlike conventional instruments, the DNB’s sensitivity to extremely low levels of visible and near-infrared light offers new insight into storm properties and impacts. Here, we chronicle Matthew’s path of destruction and peer through the DNB’s looking glass of low-light visible observations, including lightning connected to sprite formation, modulation of the atmospheric nightglow by storm-generated gravity waves, and widespread power outages. Collected without moonlight, these examples showcase the wealth of unique information present in DNB nocturnal low-light observations without moonlight, and their potential to complement traditional satellite measurements of tropical storms worldwide.

Open access
Sonja Gisinger, Andreas Dörnbrack, Vivien Matthias, James D. Doyle, Stephen D. Eckermann, Benedikt Ehard, Lars Hoffmann, Bernd Kaifler, Christopher G. Kruse, and Markus Rapp

Abstract

This paper describes the results of a comprehensive analysis of the atmospheric conditions during the Deep Propagating Gravity Wave Experiment (DEEPWAVE) campaign in austral winter 2014. Different datasets and diagnostics are combined to characterize the background atmosphere from the troposphere to the upper mesosphere. How weather regimes and the atmospheric state compare to climatological conditions is reported upon and how they relate to the airborne and ground-based gravity wave observations is also explored. Key results of this study are the dominance of tropospheric blocking situations and low-level southwesterly flows over New Zealand during June–August 2014. A varying tropopause inversion layer was found to be connected to varying vertical energy fluxes and is, therefore, an important feature with respect to wave reflection. The subtropical jet was frequently diverted south from its climatological position at 30°S and was most often involved in strong forcing events of mountain waves at the Southern Alps. The polar front jet was typically responsible for moderate and weak tropospheric forcing of mountain waves. The stratospheric planetary wave activity amplified in July leading to a displacement of the Antarctic polar vortex. This reduced the stratospheric wind minimum by about 10 m s−1 above New Zealand making breaking of large-amplitude gravity waves more likely. Satellite observations in the upper stratosphere revealed that orographic gravity wave variances for 2014 were largest in May–July (i.e., the period of the DEEPWAVE field phase).

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David M. Tratt, John A. Hackwell, Bonnie L. Valant-Spaight, Richard L. Walterscheid, Lynette J. Gelinas, James H. Hecht, Charles M. Swenson, Caleb P. Lampen, M. Joan Alexander, Lars Hoffmann, David S. Nolan, Steven D. Miller, Jeffrey L. Hall, Robert Atlas, Frank D. Marks Jr., and Philip T. Partain

Abstract

The prediction of tropical cyclone rapid intensification is one of the most pressing unsolved problems in hurricane forecasting. The signatures of gravity waves launched by strong convective updrafts are often clearly seen in airglow and carbon dioxide thermal emission spectra under favorable atmospheric conditions. By continuously monitoring the Atlantic hurricane belt from the main development region to the vulnerable sections of the continental United States at high cadence, it will be possible to investigate the utility of storm-induced gravity wave observations for the diagnosis of impending storm intensification. Such a capability would also enable significant improvements in our ability to characterize the 3D transient behavior of upper-atmospheric gravity waves and point the way to future observing strategies that could mitigate the risk to human life caused by severe storms. This paper describes a new mission concept involving a midinfrared imager hosted aboard a geostationary satellite positioned at approximately 80°W longitude. The sensor’s 3-km pixel size ensures that the gravity wave horizontal structure is adequately resolved, while a 30-s refresh rate enables improved definition of the dynamic intensification process. In this way the transient development of gravity wave perturbations caused by both convective and cyclonic storms may be discerned in near–real time.

Open access