Zonal wave numbers of the summertime 2 day planetary wave observed in the mesosphere by EOS Aura Microwave Limb Sounder

Victoria M Tunbridge, David J Sandford, Nicholas J Mitchell

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Recent observations and theoretical work suggest that the 2 day planetary wave in the summertime mesosphere is composed of multiple superposed zonal wave numbers. Here we use EOS Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) temperature data to determine the component zonal wave numbers of the 2 day wave in the mesosphere at latitudes of 70 degrees S to 70 degrees N from 2004 to 2009. We consider the effect of aliasing between different wave numbers and note that significant aliasing can occur and result in spurious signals, particularly at high latitudes in winter. The seasonal evolution of the different wave numbers is investigated and found to be very different between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In both hemispheres the wave is dominated by westward traveling waves of zonal wave number 3 and 4 (W3 and W4). However, in the Southern Hemisphere the wave is dominated by the W3 component, but in the Northern Hemisphere the W3 component is smaller and the W4 component is often of similar or larger amplitude. A small-amplitude westward traveling zonal wave number 2 (W2) wave is also evident in both hemispheres. In the Northern Hemisphere, the W2 amplitudes never exceed 3 K, the W3 amplitudes can reach 3.5 K, and the W4 can be the largest component, reaching amplitudes of 4 K. In the Southern Hemisphere, the W2 amplitudes can reach up to 3.5 K, the W3 amplitudes can be much larger, reaching 12 K, and the W4 amplitudes are smaller than in the Northern Hemisphere, in 4 out of 5 years not exceeding 3 K. The Northern Hemisphere W4 can reach large amplitudes in August when the W3 is small, which means that the late summer Northern Hemisphere quasi-2 day wave is usually a W4 oscillation rather than the familiar W3. In contrast, in the Southern Hemisphere, the W3 is often larger than the W4 around the summer solstice, and there are no episodes observed where the wave becomes dominated by the W4 for an extended period of time. A high degree of interannual variability is evident, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, where the W3 peak amplitudes vary from 12 K in January 2006 to 3 K in January 2009. The height-latitude structure of the W4 suggests that this wave is a (4, 0) Rossby-gravity wave.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberD11103
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberD11
Early online date31 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2011


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