Gravity waves in the winter stratosphere over the Southern Ocean: high-resolution satellite observations and 3-D spectral analysis.

Hindley, Neil P.; Wright, Corwin J.; Smith, Nathan D.; Hoffman, Lars; Holt, Laura A.; Alexander, M. Joan; Moffat-Griffin, Tracy ORCID:; Mitchell, Nicholas J.. 2019 Gravity waves in the winter stratosphere over the Southern Ocean: high-resolution satellite observations and 3-D spectral analysis. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19 (24). 15377-15414.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Text (Open Access)
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
acp-19-15377-2019.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (19MB) | Preview


Atmospheric gravity waves play a key role in the transfer of energy and momentum between layers of the Earth's atmosphere. However, nearly all Global Circulation Models (GCMs) seriously under-represent the momentum fluxes of gravity waves at latitudes near 60° S. This can result in modelled winter stratospheres that are unrealistically cold – a significant bias known as the "cold-pole problem". There is thus a need for measurements of gravity-wave fluxes near 60S to test and constrain GCMs. Such measurements are notoriously difficult, because they require 3-D observations of wave properties if the fluxes are to be estimated without using significant limiting assumptions. Here we use 3-D satellite measurements of stratospheric gravity waves from NASA's AIRS/Aqua instrument. We present the first extended application of a 3-D Stockwell transform (3DST) method to determine localised gravity-wave amplitudes, wavelengths and directions of propagation around the entire region of the Southern Ocean near 60° S during austral winter 2010. We first validate our method using a synthetic wave field and two case studies of real gravity waves over the Southern Andes and the island of South Georgia. A new technique to overcome wave amplitude attenuation problems in previous methods is also presented. We then characterise large-scale gravity-wave occurrence frequencies, directional momentum fluxes and short-timescale intermittency over the entire Southern Ocean. Our results show that highest wave-occurrence frequencies, amplitudes and momentum fluxes are observed in the stratosphere over the mountains of the Southern Andes and Antarctic Peninsula. However, we find that around 60–80 % of total zonal-mean momentum flux is located over the open Southern Ocean during June–August, where a large "belt" of increased wave-occurrence frequencies, amplitudes and fluxes is observed. Our results also suggest significant short-timescale variability of fluxes from both orographic and non-orographic sources in the region. A particularly striking result is a widespread convergence of gravity-wave momentum fluxes towards latitudes around 60° S from the north and south. We propose that this convergence, which is observed at nearly all longitudes during winter, accounts for a significant part of the under-represented flux in GCMs at these latitudes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1680-7316
Date made live: 06 Dec 2019 11:01 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...