Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
16 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 16 Feb 2012

Gravity wave variances and propagation derived from AIRS radiances

J. Gong, D. L. Wu, and S. D. Eckermann

Abstract. As the first gravity wave (GW) climatology study using nadir-viewing infrared sounders, 50 Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) radiance channels are selected to estimate GW variances at pressure levels between 2–100 hPa. The GW variance for each scan in the cross-track direction is derived from radiance perturbations in the scan, independently of adjacent scans along the orbit. Since the scanning swaths are perpendicular to the satellite orbits, which are inclined meridionally at most latitudes, the zonal component of GW propagation can be inferred by differencing the variances derived between the westmost and the eastmost viewing angles.

Consistent with previous GW studies using various satellite instruments, monthly mean AIRS variance shows large enhancements over meridionally oriented mountain ranges as well as some islands at winter hemisphere high latitudes. Enhanced wave activities are also found above tropical deep convective regions. GWs prefer to propagate westward above mountain ranges, and eastward above deep convection. AIRS 90 field-of-views (FOVs), ranging from +48° to −48° off nadir, can detect large-amplitude GWs with a phase velocity propagating preferentially at steep angles (e.g., those from orographic and convective sources). The annual cycle dominates the GW variances and the preferred propagation directions for all latitudes. Indication of a weak two-year variation in the tropics is found, which is presumably related to the Quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO).

AIRS geometry makes its out-tracks capable of detecting GWs with vertical wavelengths substantially shorter than the thickness of instrument weighting functions. The novel discovery of AIRS capability of observing shallow inertia GWs will expand the potential of satellite GW remote sensing and provide further constraints on the GW drag parameterization schemes in the general circulation models (GCMs).

Final-revised paper