Ten year observations of gravity waves from thunderstorms in western Africa



A new study of gravity waves produced by thunderstorms was performed using continuous recordings at the IS17 (Ivory Coast) infrasound station of the International Monitoring System developed for the verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. A typical case study is presented for a large thunderstorm on 10–11 April 2006 lasting near 14 h. Comparison with cloud temperature measured by the Meteosat 6 satellite shows that wave activity is large when the cloud temperature is low inside convection cells located over the station. Statistics based on 10 year data show that the wave activity is intense throughout the year with peak periods in May and October and less intense activity in January, in good agreement with the local keraunic level. The seasonal variations of the wave azimuth highlight clear trends from northward direction from February to August to southward direction from August to December. Lightning flashes, observed from space, show a similar motion confirming that thunderstorms are the main sources of the gravity wave activity. The gravity wave azimuth follows the seasonal motion of the tropical rain belt partly related to the Intertropical Convergence Zone of the winds. The contribution of other possible sources, such as wind over relief, is weak because surface winds are weak in this region and only oceans are present south of the station. We conclude that the large observed wave activity is mainly produced by convection associated to thunderstorms.