Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 9, 3401-3434, 2009
© Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Do gravity waves significantly impact PSC occurrence in the Antarctic?
A. J. McDonald, S. E. George, and R. M. Woollands
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand

Abstract. This study uses a combination of POAM III aerosol extinction measurements and CHAMP GPS/RO temperature measurements to examine the role of atmospheric gravity waves in Polar Stratospheric Cloud (PSC) formation in the Antarctic. POAM III aerosol extinction observations are used to identify Type I Polar Stratospheric Clouds using an unsupervised clustering algorithm. The seasonal and spatial distribution of PSCs observed by POAM III is examined to determine whether there is a bias towards regions of high wave activity early in the Antarctic winter which may enhance PSC formation.

Examination of the probability of temperatures below the Type Ia formation temperature threshold based on UKMO analyses displays a good correspondence to the PSC occurrence derived from POAM III extinction data in general. However, in June the POAM III observations of PSC are more abundant than expected from temperature thresholds. In addition the PSC occurrence based on temperature thresholds in September and October is often significantly higher than the PSC occurrence observed by POAM III, this observation probably being due to dehydration and denitrification. Use of high resolution temperatures from CHAMP GPS/RO observations provide a slightly improved relationship to the POAM III derived values. Analysis of the CHAMP temperature observations indicates that temperature perturbations associated with gravity waves may explain the enhanced PSC incidence observed in June compared to the UKMO analyses. Comparison of the UKMO analyses temperatures relative to corresponding CHAMP observations also suggests a small warm bias in the UKMO analyses during June. Examination of the longitudinal structure PSC occurrence in June 2005 also shows that regions of enhancement are associated with data near the Antarctic peninsula a known Mountain wave "hotspot". The impact of temperature perturbations causing enhanced temperature threshold crossings is shown to be particularly important early in the Antarctic winter while later in the season temperature perturbations associated with gravity waves could contribute to about 15% of the PSC observed, a value which corresponds well to several previous studies.

Citation: McDonald, A. J., George, S. E., and Woollands, R. M.: Do gravity waves significantly impact PSC occurrence in the Antarctic?, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 9, 3401-3434, doi:10.5194/acpd-9-3401-2009, 2009.
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