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The Zonally Averaged Circulation of the Middle Atmosphere

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  • 1 Science Applications Inc., McLean, Va. 22101
  • | 2 Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D. C. 20375
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Abstract

The steady-state, zonally averaged circulation of the middle atmosphere (15–125 km) is studied with a quasigeostrophic, numerical model that explicitly includes a self-consistent calculation of solar radiative heating due to O2 and O3 absorption, Newtonian cooling, Rayleigh friction, tropopause boundary conditions based on climatological averages, and the effects of vertically propagating planetary waves. We find the direct, radiatively driven pole-to-pole circulation at solstice is sufficient to account for the cold summer mesopause and warm isothermal winter mesosphere with associated zonal jets of realistic magnitude. The climatological heat and momentum fluxes associated with planetary wavenumber 2 have a negligible effect on the mean circulation. With planetary wavenumber 1 no steady-state solution could be obtained due to the formation of easterlies and hence critical layers in the winter mesosphere. We also find that the radiative heating associated with secondary peaks in the O3 density at the mesopause could render the polar mesopause region convectively unstable.

Abstract

The steady-state, zonally averaged circulation of the middle atmosphere (15–125 km) is studied with a quasigeostrophic, numerical model that explicitly includes a self-consistent calculation of solar radiative heating due to O2 and O3 absorption, Newtonian cooling, Rayleigh friction, tropopause boundary conditions based on climatological averages, and the effects of vertically propagating planetary waves. We find the direct, radiatively driven pole-to-pole circulation at solstice is sufficient to account for the cold summer mesopause and warm isothermal winter mesosphere with associated zonal jets of realistic magnitude. The climatological heat and momentum fluxes associated with planetary wavenumber 2 have a negligible effect on the mean circulation. With planetary wavenumber 1 no steady-state solution could be obtained due to the formation of easterlies and hence critical layers in the winter mesosphere. We also find that the radiative heating associated with secondary peaks in the O3 density at the mesopause could render the polar mesopause region convectively unstable.

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