Gravity wave activity in the lower atmosphere: Seasonal and latitudinal variations


  • Simon J. Allen,

  • Robert A. Vincent


A climatology of gravity wave activity in the lower atmosphere based on high-resolution radiosonde measurements provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is presented. These data are ideal for investigating gravity wave activity and its variation with position and time. Observations from 18 meteorological stations within Australia and Antarctica, covering a latitude range of 12°S – 68°S and a longitude range of 78°E–159°E, are discussed. Vertical wavenumber power spectra of normalized temperature fluctuations are calculated within both the troposphere and the lower stratosphere and are compared with the predictions of current gravity wave saturation theories. Estimates of important model parameters such as the total gravity wave energy per unit mass are also presented. The vertical wavenumber power spectra are found to remain approximately invariant with time and geographic location with only one significant exception. Spectral amplitudes observed within the lower stratosphere are found to be consistent with theoretical expectations but the amplitudes observed within the troposphere are consistently larger than expected, often by as much as a factor of about 3. Seasonal variations of stratospheric wave energy per unit mass are identified with maxima occurring during the low-latitude wet season and during the midlatitude winter. These variations do not exceed a factor of about 2. Similar variations are not found in the troposphere where temperature fluctuations are likely to be contaminated by convection and inversions. The largest values of wave energy density are typically found near the tropopause.