Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 9, 5623-5677, 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.
Wave fluxes of equatorial Kelvin waves and QBO zonal wind forcing derived from SABER and ECMWF temperature space-time spectra
M. Ern and P. Preusse
Institute of Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere (ICG-1), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany

Abstract. The quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of the zonal mean zonal wind is one of the most important processes in the dynamics of the middle atmosphere in the tropics. Influences of the QBO can even be found at mid and high latitudes. It is widely accepted that the phase descent of alternating tropical easterlies and westerlies is driven by atmospheric waves of both global scale (equatorial wave modes like Kelvin, equatorial Rossby, Rossby-gravity, or inertia-gravity waves), as well as mesoscale gravity waves. However, the relative distribution of the different types of waves to the forcing of the QBO winds is highly uncertain. This is the case because until recently there were no high resolution long-term global measurements in the stratosphere. In our study we estimate Kelvin wave momentum flux and the contribution of zonal wind forcing by Kelvin waves based on space-time spectra determined from both Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER) temperature measurements as well as temperatures from European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational analyses. Peak values of total Kelvin wave zonal wind forcing found are about 0.2 m/s/day. There is good agreement between SABER and ECMWF results. Global distributions are shown and the results are compared to the total wave forcing required to balance the background atmosphere. Sometimes Kelvin wave forcing is sufficient to explain almost the whole total wave forcing required for the momentum balance during the transition from QBO easterly to westerly winds. This is especially the case during the later parts of the periods of westerly wind shear at the equator between 20 and 35 km altitude. During other phases of the westerly wind shear periods, however, the contribution of Kelvin waves can be comparably low and the missing wave forcing, which is often attributed to mesoscale gravity waves or intermediate scale waves, can be the by far dominant contribution of the QBO forcing.

Citation: Ern, M. and Preusse, P.: Wave fluxes of equatorial Kelvin waves and QBO zonal wind forcing derived from SABER and ECMWF temperature space-time spectra, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 9, 5623-5677, doi:10.5194/acpd-9-5623-2009, 2009.
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