Observed and Modeled Mountain Waves from the Surface to the Mesosphere Near the Drake Passage

Christopher Kruse, M. Joan Alexander, Lars Hoffmann, Annelize van Niekerk, Inna Polichtchouk, Julio Bacmeister, Laura A. Holt, Riwal Plougonven, Petr Sacha, Corwin Wright, Kaoru Sato, Ryosuke Shibuya, Sonja Gisinger, Manfred Ern, Catrin Meyer, Olaf Stein

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Four state-of-the-science numerical weather prediction (NWP) models were used to perform mountain wave (MW)-resolving hindcasts over the Drake Passage of a 10-day period in 2010 with numerous observed MW cases. The Integrated Forecast System (IFS) and the Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic (ICON) model were run at Dx ≈ 9 and 13 km globally. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model and the Met Office Unified Model (UM) were both configured with a Dx 5 3-km regional domain. All domains had tops near 1 Pa (z ≈ 80 km). These deep domains allowed quantitative validation against Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) observations, accounting for observation time, viewing geometry, and radiative transfer. All models reproduced observed middle-atmosphere MWs with remarkable skill. Increased horizontal resolution improved validations. Still, all models underrepresented observed MW amplitudes, even after accounting for model effective resolution and instrument noise, suggesting even at Dx ≈ 3-km resolution, small-scale MWs are underresolved and/or overdiffused. MW drag parameterizations are still necessary in NWP models at current operational resolutions of Dx ≈ 10 km. Upper GW sponge layers in the operationally configured models significantly, artificially reduced MW amplitudes in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere. In the IFS, parameterized GW drags partly compensated this deficiency, but still, total drags were ≈6 times smaller than that resolved at Dx ≈ 3 km. Meridionally propagating MWs significantly enhance zonal drag over the Drake Passage. Interestingly, drag associated with meridional fluxes of zonal momentum (i.e., u ̗y ̗) were important; not accounting for these terms results in a drag in the wrong direction at and below the polar night jet. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This study had three purposes: to quantitatively evaluate how well four state-of-the-science weather models could reproduce observed mountain waves (MWs) in the middle atmosphere, to compare the simulated MWs within the models, and to quantitatively evaluate two MW parameterizations in a widely used climate model. These models reproduced observed MWs with remarkable skill. Still, MW parameterizations are necessary in current Dx ≈ 10-km resolution global weather models. Even Dx ≈ 3-km resolution does not appear to be high enough to represent all momentum-fluxing MW scales. Meridionally propagating MWs can significantly influence zonal winds over the Drake Passage. Parameterizations that handle horizontal propagation may need to consider horizontal fluxes of horizontal momentum in order to get the direction of their forcing correct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-932
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
Early online date16 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Dynamics
  • Forcing
  • Gravity waves
  • Instrumentation/sensors
  • Mesoscale processes
  • Middle atmosphere
  • Model comparison
  • Model errors
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Momentum
  • Mountain waves
  • Orographic effects
  • Parameterization
  • Regional models
  • Satellite observations
  • Spectral analysis/models/distribution
  • Stratosphere-troposphere coupling
  • Subgrid-scale processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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