1Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, The University of Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
2Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Louisville, KY40292, USA
3Atmospheric Chemistry Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
4Department of Physics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB EB3 5A3, Canada
Abstract. Horizontal winds in the mesosphere have been measured over Ascension Island (8° S, 14° W) in the tropical mid-Atlantic region throughout the years 2002–2011. The observations were made by a VHF meteor radar. The results reveal the presence of atmospheric tides of large amplitude. The results are analysed to characterise the seasonal and interannual variability of the diurnal and semidiurnal tides. Monthly-mean diurnal tidal amplitudes are found to reach values as large as 48 m s−1 in the meridional component and 41 m s−1 in the zonal. A semiannual seasonal variation is found in diurnal-tidal amplitudes with amplitude maxima at the equinoxes and amplitude minima at the solstices. Diurnal tidal meridional vertical wavelengths are generally in the range 24–30 km. The diurnal zonal vertical wavelengths are similar to the meridional, except for the winter months when the zonal vertical wavelengths are much longer, occasionally exceeding 100 km. Semidiurnal amplitudes are observed to be significantly smaller than diurnal amplitudes. Semidiurnal vertical wavelengths range from 20 to more than 100 km. Our observations of tidal amplitudes and phases are compared with the predictions of the extended Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model (eCMAM) and the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). Both eCMAM and WACCM reproduce the trend for greater diurnal amplitudes in the meridional component than the zonal. However, in winter eCMAM tends to over-estimate meridional amplitudes, while WACCM under-estimates zonal and meridional amplitudes. Semidiurnal amplitude predictions are generally good for both models. Vertical wavelength predictions are also generally good for both models, however eCMAM predicts shorter zonal vertical wavelengths than observed for the diurnal tide in winter, while WACCM predicts longer zonal semidiurnal vertical wavelengths than observed for most months. It is found that larger-than-average diurnal and semidiurnal tidal amplitudes occur when the stratospheric QBO at 10 hPa is eastwards, and smaller-than-average amplitudes occur when it is westwards. However, the precise mechanism for this modulation of tidal amplitudes by the stratospheric QBO remains unclear.