The Synoptic Setting and Possible Energy Sources for Mesoscale Wave Disturbances

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  • 1 Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771
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Abstract

Thirteen case studies of mesoscale wave disturbances (characterized by either a singular wave of depression or wave packets with periods of 1–4 h, horizontal wavelengths of 50–500 km, and surface pressure perturbation amplitudes of 0.2–7.0 mb) are reviewed to isolate common synoptic features for these cases and to shed light on possible energy sources for the waves. A strong thermal inversion in the lower troposphere (north of a frontal boundary) and a jet streak propagating toward a ridge axis in the upper troposphere are commonly observed in all the cases. In general, the area of wave activity is bounded by the jet axis to the west or northwest, a surface front to the southeast, an inflection axis (between the trough and ridge axes) to the southwest and the ridge axis to the northeast.

The conditions specified by Lindzen and Tung as being necessary to form a wave duct, which include the existence of the lower-tropospheric inversion, seem to be met in many of these cases. This suggests that a ducting mechanism contributes to the long duration of these wave events by preventing the vertical propagation of wave energy.

Questions are raised concerning the role of either convection or shear instability as source mechanisms for the generation of these mesoscale wave disturbances. The observed development of the waves within the exit region of a jet streak propagating toward an upper-level ridge axis is shown to be consistent with the hypothesis that the actual energy source needed to initiate and sustain thew wave events may be related to a geostrophic adjustment process associated with upper-tropospheric jet streaks.

Abstract

Thirteen case studies of mesoscale wave disturbances (characterized by either a singular wave of depression or wave packets with periods of 1–4 h, horizontal wavelengths of 50–500 km, and surface pressure perturbation amplitudes of 0.2–7.0 mb) are reviewed to isolate common synoptic features for these cases and to shed light on possible energy sources for the waves. A strong thermal inversion in the lower troposphere (north of a frontal boundary) and a jet streak propagating toward a ridge axis in the upper troposphere are commonly observed in all the cases. In general, the area of wave activity is bounded by the jet axis to the west or northwest, a surface front to the southeast, an inflection axis (between the trough and ridge axes) to the southwest and the ridge axis to the northeast.

The conditions specified by Lindzen and Tung as being necessary to form a wave duct, which include the existence of the lower-tropospheric inversion, seem to be met in many of these cases. This suggests that a ducting mechanism contributes to the long duration of these wave events by preventing the vertical propagation of wave energy.

Questions are raised concerning the role of either convection or shear instability as source mechanisms for the generation of these mesoscale wave disturbances. The observed development of the waves within the exit region of a jet streak propagating toward an upper-level ridge axis is shown to be consistent with the hypothesis that the actual energy source needed to initiate and sustain thew wave events may be related to a geostrophic adjustment process associated with upper-tropospheric jet streaks.

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