Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 171, Issue 2, pp 151–173 | Cite as

Interaction of Submeso Motions in the Antarctic Stable Boundary Layer

  • Daniela CavaEmail author
  • Luca Mortarini
  • Domenico Anfossi
  • Umberto Giostra
Research Article


Submeso motions add complexities to the structure of the stable boundary layer. Such motions include horizontal meandering and gravity waves, in particular when the large-scale flow is weak. The coexistence and interaction of such submeso motions is investigated through the analysis of data collected in Antarctica, in persistent conditions of strong atmospheric stratification. Detected horizontal meandering is frequently associated with temperature oscillations characterized by similar time scales (30 min) at all levels (2, 4.5 and 10 m). In contrast, dirty gravity waves superimposed on horizontal meandering are detected only at the highest level, characterized by time scales of a few minutes. The meandering produces an energy peak in the low-frequency spectral range, well fitted by a spectral model previously proposed for low wind speeds. The coexistence of horizontal and vertical oscillations is observed in the presence of large wind-direction shifts superimposed on the gradual flow meandering. Such shifts are often related to the variation of the mean flow dynamics, but also to intermittent events, localized in time, which do not produce a variation in the mean wind direction and that are associated with sharp decreases in wind speed and temperature. The noisy gravity waves coexisting with horizontal meandering persist only for a few cycles and produce bursts of turbulent mixing close to the ground, affecting the exchange processes between the surface and the stable boundary layer. The results confirm the importance of sharp wind-direction changes at low wind speed in the stable atmosphere and suggest a possible correlation between observed gravity waves and dynamical instabilities modulated by horizontal meandering.


Gravity waves Horizontal meandering Intermittent turbulence Stable boundary layer Wind-direction variability 



This work was supported by PNRA (Progetto Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide). We would like to acknowledge the collaboration with the Marche Region, and in particular the “Environmental assessments and authorizations, air quality and natural protection” section. We thank Dr. Karl Lapo and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that contributed to improve the quality of this manuscript.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate - National Research CouncilLecceItaly
  2. 2.Universidade Federal de Santa MariaSanta MariaBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Pure and Applied Sciences (DiSPeA)Università degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo”UrbinoItaly
  4. 4.Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate - National Research CouncilTurinItaly

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