Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
Research article
18 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 18 Feb 2014

On the presence of equatorial waves in the lower stratosphere of a general circulation model

P. Maury and F. Lott

Abstract. To challenge the hypothesis that equatorial waves in the lower stratosphere are essentially forced by convection, we use the LMDz atmospheric model extended to the stratosphere and compare two versions having very different convection schemes but no quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). The two versions have realistic time mean precipitation climatologies but very different precipitation variabilities. Despite these differences, the equatorial stratospheric Kelvin waves at 50 hPa are almost identical in the two versions and quite realistic. The Rossby gravity waves are also very similar but significantly weaker than in observations. We demonstrate that this bias on the Rossby gravity waves is essentially due to a dynamical filtering occurring because the model zonal wind is systematically westward. During a westward phase of the QBO, the ERA-Interim Rossby gravity waves compare well with those in the model.

These results suggest that (i) in the model the effect of the convection scheme on the waves is in part hidden by the dynamical filtering, and (ii) the waves are produced by other sources than equatorial convection. For the Kelvin waves, this last point is illustrated by an Eliassen and Palm flux analysis, showing that in the model they come more from the subtropics and mid-latitude regions, whereas in the ERA-Interim reanalysis the sources are more equatorial. We show that non-equatorial sources are also significant in reanalysis data sets as they explain the presence of the Rossby gravity waves in the stratosphere. To illustrate this point, we identify situations with large Rossby gravity waves in the reanalysis middle stratosphere for dates selected when the stratosphere is dynamically separated from the equatorial troposphere. We refer to this process as a stratospheric reloading.

Final-revised paper