Kelvin Wave Packets and Flow Acceleration: A Comparison of Modeling and Observations

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195
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Abstract

Atmospheric Kelvin waves, as revealed by temperatures obtained from the recent Limb Infrared Monitor of the Stratosphere (LIMS) experiment, commonly occur in packets. A simple two-dimensional gravity-wave model is used to study the upward propagation of these packets through different zonal mean wind profiles derived from the LIMS data. The observed prevalence of high frequency waves in the lower mesosphere and low frequency waves in the lower stratosphere can be explained by dispersion of energy associated with the range of frequencies comprising a packet. Dominant wave frequencies at upper and lower levels are more distinctly separated if the packet propagates through a layer of westerly winds. Due to dispersion and shear effects, a packet of short temporal length at low levels will have a considerably extended impact on a layer of westerly winds at higher levels. Observed and modeled westerly accelerations resulting from packet absorption occur in the same layer, and are similar in magnitude and duration. These results support the theory that Kelvin waves are responsible for the westerly phase of the semiannual oscillation.

Abstract

Atmospheric Kelvin waves, as revealed by temperatures obtained from the recent Limb Infrared Monitor of the Stratosphere (LIMS) experiment, commonly occur in packets. A simple two-dimensional gravity-wave model is used to study the upward propagation of these packets through different zonal mean wind profiles derived from the LIMS data. The observed prevalence of high frequency waves in the lower mesosphere and low frequency waves in the lower stratosphere can be explained by dispersion of energy associated with the range of frequencies comprising a packet. Dominant wave frequencies at upper and lower levels are more distinctly separated if the packet propagates through a layer of westerly winds. Due to dispersion and shear effects, a packet of short temporal length at low levels will have a considerably extended impact on a layer of westerly winds at higher levels. Observed and modeled westerly accelerations resulting from packet absorption occur in the same layer, and are similar in magnitude and duration. These results support the theory that Kelvin waves are responsible for the westerly phase of the semiannual oscillation.

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