Skip to main content

The Role of Stokes Diffusion in Middle-Atmospheric Transport

  • Chapter
Coupling Processes in the Lower and Middle Atmosphere

Part of the book series: NATO ASI Series ((ASIC,volume 387))


Although turbulence occurs regularly throughout the middle atmosphere, it’s appearance is sporadic both in time and space. It is certainly not possible to visualize the upper atmosphere as a homogeneous turbulent medium; laminar regions often appear to exist between the turbulent ones. Although localized occurrences of turbulence can be quite intense, this intermittency restricts the capability of small scale turbulence to cause large scale diffusion. In this paper, we discuss an alternative model for large scale atmospheric diffusion, which allows large scale diffusion to proceed even in the presence of very localized turbulence. We propose that large scale diffusion need not be entirely due to small scale turbulent eddies, but that an ensemble of gravity waves may act in a diffusive sense. This is possible because of the accumulated effects of the Stokes’ drifts of an ensemble of gravity waves. We disuse the mechanism by which this occurs, and quantify the level of diffusion which we expect this mechanism to produce.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 9.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Andrews, D.G., and M.E. McIntyre, Planetary waves in horizontal and vertical shear: the generalized Eliassen-Palm relation and the mean zonal acceleration,J. Atmos. Sci., 33 2031–2048, 1976.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Andrews, D.G., and M.E. McIntyre, An exact theory for nonlinear waves on a Lagrangian-mean flowJ. Fluid Mech.,89 609–646, 1978.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Andrews, D.G., J.R. Holton and C.B. Leovy, Middle Atmosphere Dynamics, Academic Press, 489 pp, 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ball, S.M., “Upper atmosphere tides and internal gravity waves at mid-and low-latitudes”, Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, Australia, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  • Batchelor, G.K. “The application of similarity theory of turbulence to atmospheric diffusion”, J. Roy. Meteorol. Soc., 76, 133–146, 1950.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coy, L., D.C. Fritts and J. Weinstock, The Stokes’ drift due to vertically propagating internal gravity waves in a compressible atmosphere, J. Atmos. Sci., 43 2636–2643, 1986.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Czechowsky, P., R. Ruester, and G. Schmidt, Variations of mesospheric structure in different seasons, Geophys. Res. Letts., 6, 459–462, 1979.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dewan, E.M., Turbulent vertical transport due to thin intermittent mixing layers in the stratosphere and other stable fluids, Science, 211, 1041–1042, 1981.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gossard E.D. and W.H. Hooke, “Waves in the Atmosphere”, 456 pp, Elsevier, NY, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Herterich, K., and K. Hasselmann, The horizontal diffusion of tracers by durface waves, J. Phys. Oceanography, 12 704–711, 1982.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hocking W.K., Turbulence in the region 80–120 km., Advances in Space Res., 7, no. 10, 171–181, 1987.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hocking, W.K., Two years of continuous measurements of turbulence parameters in the upper mesosphere and lower thermosphere made with a 2-MHz radar, J. Geophys. Res., 93, 2475–2491, 1988.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hocking, W.K. “The effects of middle atmosphere turbulence on coupling between atmospheric regions”, J. Geomag. and Geoelectricity, in press, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Longuet-Higgins, M.S., On the mass transport by time-varying ocean currents, Deep-sea Res., 16 431–447, 1969.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roettger, J., P.K. Rastogi, and R.F. Woodman, High resolution VHF radar observations of turbulence structures in the mesosphere,, Geophys. Res. Letts., 6, 617–620, 1979.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sato, T., T. Tsuda, S. Kato, S. Morimoto, S. Fukao, and I. Kimura, High resolution observations of turbulence by using the MU radar, Radio Sci., 20, 1452–1460, 1985.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • VanZandt, T.E., “A universal spectrum of Buoyancy waves in the atmosphere”, Geophys. Res. Letts., 9, 575–78, 1982

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vincent, R.A. and S.M. Ball, “Mesospheric winds at low-and mid=latitudes in the Southern hemisphere”, J. Geophys. Res., 86, 9159–9169, 1981

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walterscheid R.L. and and W.K. Hocking, Stokes diffusion by atmospheric internal gravity waves, J. Atmos. Sci., 48 2213–2230, 1991.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodman, R.F., High-altitude-resolution stratospheric measurements with the Arecibo 2380-MHz radar, Radio Sci., 15, 423–430, 1980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodman, R.F. and P.K.Rastogi, Evaluation of effective eddy diffusive coefficients using radar observations of turbulence in the stratosphere, Geophys. Res. Letts., 11, 243–246, 1984

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 1993 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Hocking, W.K., Walterscheid, R.L. (1993). The Role of Stokes Diffusion in Middle-Atmospheric Transport. In: Thrane, E.V., Blix, T.A., Fritts, D.C. (eds) Coupling Processes in the Lower and Middle Atmosphere. NATO ASI Series, vol 387. Springer, Dordrecht.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-010-4694-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-011-1594-0

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive

Publish with us

Policies and ethics