Journal article

The wintertime two-day wave in the polar stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere

Sandford D, Schwartz M, Mitchell N ...see all

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 2, issue 8 (2008) pp. 749-755

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Recent observations of the polar mesosphere have revealed that waves with periods near two days reach significant amplitudes in both summer and winter. This is in striking contrast to mid-latitude observations where two-day waves maximise in summer only. Here, we use data from a meteor radar at Esrange (68 degrees N, 21 degrees E) in the Arctic and data from the MLS instrument aboard the EOS Aura satellite to investigate the wintertime polar two-day wave in the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere. The radar data reveal that mesospheric two-day wave activity measured by horizontal-wind variance has a semi-annual cycle with maxima in winter and summer and equinoctial minima. The MLS data reveal that the summertime wave in the mesosphere is dominated by a westward-travelling zonal wavenumber three wave with significant westward wavenumber four present. It reaches largest amplitudes at mid-latitudes in the southern hemisphere. In the winter polar mesosphere, however, the wave appears to be an eastward-travelling zonal wavenumber two, which is not seen during the summer. At the latitude of Esrange, the eastward-two wave reaches maximum amplitudes near the stratopause and appears related to similar waves previously observed in the polar stratosphere. We conclude that the wintertime polar two-day wave is the mesospheric manifestation of an eastward-propagating, zonal-wavenumber-two wave originating in the stratosphere, maximising at the stratopause and likely to be generated by instabilities in the polar night jet.

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  • D J Sandford

  • M J Schwartz

  • N J Mitchell

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