Gravity waves in the terrestrial atmosphere are a vital geophysical process, acting to transport energy and momentum on a wide range of scales and to couple the various atmospheric layers. Despite the importance of these waves, the many studies to date have often exhibited very dissimilar results, and it remains unclear whether these differences are primarily instrumental or methodological. Here, we address this problem by comparing observations made by a diverse range of the most widely-used gravity wave resolving instruments in a common geographic region around the southern Andes and Drake Passage, an area known to exhibit strong wave activity. Specifically, we use data from three limb-sounding radiometers (MLS-Aura, HIRDLS and SABER), the COSMIC GPS-RO constellation, a ground-based meteor radar, the AIRS infrared nadir sounder and radiosondes to examine the gravity wave potential energy (GWPE) and vertical wavelengths (λz) of individual gravity wave packets from the lower troposphere to the edge of the lower thermosphere. Our results show important similarities and differences. Limb sounder measurements show high intercorrelation, typically > 0.80 between any instrument pair. Meteor-radar observations agree in form with the limb sounders, despite vast technical differences. AIRS and radiosonde observations tend to be uncorrelated or anticorrelated with the other datasets, suggesting very different behaviour of the wave field in the different spectral regimes accessed by each instrument. Except in spring, we see little dissipation of GWPE throughout the stratosphere and lower mesosphere. Observed GWPE for individual wave packets exhibits a log-normal distribution, with short-timescale intermittency dominating over a well-repeated monthly-median seasonal cycle. GWPE and λz exhibit strong correlations with the stratospheric winds, but not with local surface winds. Our results provide guidance for interpretation and intercomparison of such datasets in their full context, and reinforce the vital point that no one dataset can represent the whole spectrum of gravity waves in the terrestrial atmosphere.
Wright, C., Hindley, N., Moss, A., & Mitchell, N. (2016). Multi-instrument gravity-wave measurements over Tierra del Fuego and the Drake Passage – Part 1: potential energies and vertical wavelengths from AIRS, COSMIC, HIRDLS, MLS-Aura, SAAMER, SABER and radiosondes. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 9(3), 877-908. https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-9-877-2016