Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rocket and lidar studies of waves and turbulence in the arctic middle atmosphere
by Triplett, Colin Charles, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2016, 171; 10147175
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presents new studies of waves and turbulence in the Arctic middle atmosphere. The study has a primary focus on wintertime conditions when the large-scale circulation of the middle atmosphere is disrupted by the breaking of planetary waves associated with sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) events. We used ongoing Rayleigh lidar measurements of density and temperature to conduct a multi-year study of gravity waves in the upper stratosphere-lower mesosphere (USLM) over Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR) at Chatanika, Alaska. We analyzed the night-to-night gravity wave activity in terms of the wind structure and the ageostrophy. We find that the weak winds during disturbed conditions block the vertical propagation of gravity waves into the mesosphere. The gravity wave activity is correlated with the altitudes where the winds are weakest. During periods of weak winds we find little correlation with ageostrophy. However, during periods of stronger winds we find the USLM gravity wave activity is correlated with the ageostrophy in the upper troposphere indicating that ageostrophy in this region is a source of the gravity waves. Inter-annually we find the wintertime gravity wave activity is correlated with the level of disturbance of the middle atmosphere, being reduced in those winters with a higher level of disturbance and weaker winds. We used rocket-borne ion gauges to measure turbulence in the wintertime middle atmosphere while documenting the larger meteorological context from Rayleigh lidar and satellites. This investigation of turbulence was called the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (MTeX). During MTeX we found a highly disturbed atmosphere associated with an SSW where winds were weak and gravity wave activity was low. We found low levels of turbulence in the upper mesosphere. The turbulence was primarily found in regions of convective instability in the topside of mesospheric inversion layers (MILs). The strongest and most persist turbulence was found in a MIL that is associated with the breaking of a monochromatic gravity wave. These MTeX observations indicate that turbulence is generated by gravity wave breaking as opposed to gravity wave saturation. These MTeX findings of low levels of turbulence are consistent with recent model studies of vertical transport during SSWs and support the view that eddy transport is not a dominant transport mechanism during SSWs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Collins, Richard L.
Commitee: Bhatt, Uma S., Lehmacher, Gerald, Newman, David, Weingartner, Thomas
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Atmospheric Sciences
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-B 77/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Atmospheric sciences, Remote sensing
Keywords: Arctic, Gravity waves, Lidar, Middle atmosphere, Rocket, Turbulence
Publication Number: 10147175
ISBN: 9781369024647
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