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Falling sphere observations of anisotropic gravity wave motions in the upper stratosphere over Australia


A study of inertial scale gravity wave motions in the region of the atmosphere between 30 and 60 km has been undertaken, using wind and temperature data derived from rocket-borne falling sphere density experiments performed over Woomera, Australia between 1962 nad 1976. The gross features of the wave field compare favorably with those found in similar northern hemispheric studies. Wave propagation is found to be both vertically and horizontally anisotropic. A rotary spectral analysis indicates predominately upgoing wave energy, suggesting that the majority of sources of these waves lie below 30 km. A detailed statistical investigation of the waves, made using the Stokes parameters technique, reveals that phase progression is also highly directional in the horizontal, with a significant zonal component in summer, but with a strong meridional component in winter. Propagation towards the southeast is inferred in summer, with the waves possibly emanating from tropospheric sources in equatorial regions to the north of Australia. The technique also shows that, on average, the waves appear to have mean ellipse eccentricities (=f/ω) around 0.4–0.45. Indirect estimates of a number of important wave parameters are made. In particular,v′ andw′ flux estimates are made over several height intervals. The vertical gradient of density weighted flux implies wave-induced mean flow accelerations of the order 0.1–1 ms−1day−1. This suggests that dissipating gravity waves are a significant source of the momentum residuals that are encountered in studies of satellite data from this region.

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Eckermann, S.D., Vincent, R.A. Falling sphere observations of anisotropic gravity wave motions in the upper stratosphere over Australia. PAGEOPH 130, 509–532 (1989).

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Key words

  • Middle atmosphere
  • intertial scale gravity wave
  • Stokes parameters
  • momentum fluxes