2-day planetary waves in the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere

  • Victoria Tunbridge

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis presents observations of the 2-day planetary wave in the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere. These observations were made using two ground-based meteor radars at polar latitudes and the satellite-borne microwave limb sounder (MLS) on the NASA Aura satellite. There have been relatively few observations of the 2-day wave at polar latitudes made using ground-based radars. This is particularly so in the Antarctic. Measurements of summertime and wintertime polar 2-day waves in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region were made using identical meteor radars at the conjugate geographical latitudes of Rothera (68!S, 68!W) in the Antarctic and Esrange (68!N, 21!E) in Arctic Sweden. This allows accurate quantification of the differences in the nature and seasonal variability of the 2day wave between the two polar regions. A clear seasonal variability is evident with the maximum amplitudes occurring during the summer months in both hemispheres. However, significant differences are found in the behaviour of the summertime wave between the two polar regions. In particular, wave activity is shorter lived but of larger amplitude in the Antarctic. These differences are suggested to be partly due to the different background winds of the two polar regions and possible differences in the component zonal wavenumbers in the northern and southern hemispheres. These radar studies have excellent spatial, height and time resolution but cannot resolve the component zonal wavenumbers of the 2-day wave. Therefore, Earth Observing System (EOS) Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) measurements of atmospheric temperature were used to investigate the climatology and interhemispheric differences of the different zonal wavenumbers (westward propagating zonal wavenumbers 2, 3 and 4) that compose the 2-day wave “complex”. This study demonstrates that the wave is dominated by different wavenumbers in the northern and southern hemisphere and that some of the interhemispheric differences observed in ground-based studies can be explained by the seasonal variability of these different zonal wavenumbers. These satellite studies led to participation in a multi-technique international collaboration to study the short-term variability of the summertime 2-day wave. Observations made in the northern hemisphere at mid-latitudes revealed that there are typically three peaks of enhanced 2-day wave amplitude during the summer, probably originating from a combination of baroclinic instability and critical wind speed.
Date of Award1 Feb 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorNicholas Mitchell (Supervisor) & Ivan Astin (Supervisor)


  • Planetary Waves
  • 2-day wave
  • Middle-Atmosphere
  • Mesosphere

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