Gravity Wave and Tidal Structures between 60 and 140 km Inferred from Space Shuttle Reentry Data

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  • 1 Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Institute for Space and Terrestrial Sciences, North York, Ontario, Canada
  • | 3 NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
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Abstract

This study presents an analysis of density measurements made using high-resolution accelerometers aboard several space shuttles at altitudes from 60 to 140 km during reentry into the earth's atmosphere. The observed density fluctuations are interpreted in terms of gravity waves and tides and provide evidence of the importance of such motions well into the thermosphere. Height profiles of fractional density variance reveal that wave amplitudes increase at a rate consistent with observations at lower levels up to ∼90 km. The rate of amplitude growth decreases at greater heights, however, and appears to cease above ∼110 km. Wave amplitudes are nevertheless large at these heights and suggest that gravity waves may play an important role in forcing of the lower thermosphere.

Abstract

This study presents an analysis of density measurements made using high-resolution accelerometers aboard several space shuttles at altitudes from 60 to 140 km during reentry into the earth's atmosphere. The observed density fluctuations are interpreted in terms of gravity waves and tides and provide evidence of the importance of such motions well into the thermosphere. Height profiles of fractional density variance reveal that wave amplitudes increase at a rate consistent with observations at lower levels up to ∼90 km. The rate of amplitude growth decreases at greater heights, however, and appears to cease above ∼110 km. Wave amplitudes are nevertheless large at these heights and suggest that gravity waves may play an important role in forcing of the lower thermosphere.

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