Microwave Limb Sounder observations of gravity waves in the stratosphere: A climatology and interpretation


  • Charles McLandress,

  • M. Joan Alexander,

  • Dong L. Wu


High-horizontal-resolution temperature data from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) are analyzed to obtain information about high intrinsic frequency gravity waves in the stratosphere. Global climatologies of temperature variance at solstice are computed using six years of data. A linear gravity wave model is used to interpret the satellite measurements and to infer information about tropospheric wave sources. Globally uniform sources having several different spectral shapes are examined and the computed variances are filtered in three-dimensional space in a manner that simulates the MLS weighting functions. The model is able to reproduce the observed zonal mean structure, thus indicating that the observations reflect changes in background wind speeds and provide little information about the latitudinal variation of wave sources. Longitudinal variations in the summer hemisphere do reflect source variations since the modeled variances exhibit much less variation in this direction as a consequence of the zonal symmetry of the background winds. A close correspondence between the MLS variances and satellite observations of outgoing-longwave radiation suggests that deep convection is the probable source for these waves. The large variances observed over the tip of South America in winter are most certainly linked to orographic forcing but inferences about wave sources in Northern Hemisphere winter are difficult to make as a result of the high degree of longitudinal and temporal variability in the stratospheric winds. Comparisons of model results using different source spectra suggest that the tropospheric sources in the subtropics in summer have a broader phase speed spectrum than do sources at middle latitudes in winter.