Articles | Volume 23, issue 7
Research article
05 Apr 2023
Research article |  | 05 Apr 2023

Aircraft observations of gravity wave activity and turbulence in the tropical tropopause layer: prevalence, influence on cirrus clouds, and comparison with global storm-resolving models

Rachel Atlas and Christopher S. Bretherton

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Subject: Clouds and Precipitation | Research Activity: Field Measurements | Altitude Range: Troposphere | Science Focus: Physics (physical properties and processes)
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Cited articles

Atlas, R. L., Bretherton, C. S., Blossey, P. N., Gettelman, A., Bardeen, C., Lin, P., and Ming, Y.: How Well Do Large-Eddy Simulations and Global Climate Models Represent Observed Boundary Layer Structures and Low Clouds Over the Summertime Southern Ocean?, J. Adv. Model. Earth Sy., 12, e2020MS002205,, 2020. a
Boehm, M. T., Verlinde, J., and Ackerman, T. P.: On the maintenance of high tropical cirrus, J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., 104, 24423–24433,, 1999. a
Bramberger, M., Alexander, M. J., Davis, S., Podglajen, A., Hertzog, A., Kalnajs, L., Deshler, T., Goetz, J. D., and Khaykin, S.: First Super-Pressure Balloon-Borne Fine-Vertical-Scale Profiles in the Upper TTL: Impacts of Atmospheric Waves on Cirrus Clouds and the QBO, Geophys. Res. Lett., 49, e2021GL097596,, 2022. a, b
Caldwell, P. M., Terai, C. R., Hillman, B., Keen, N. D., Bogenschutz, P., Lin, W., Beydoun, H., Taylor, M., Bertagna, L., Bradley, A. M., Clevenger, T. C., Donahue, A. S., Eldred, C., Foucar, J., Golaz, J.-C., Guba, O., Jacob, R., Johnson, J., Krishna, J., Liu, W., Pressel, K., Salinger, A. G., Singh, B., Steyer, A., Ullrich, P., Wu, D., Yuan, X., Shpund, J., Ma, H.-Y., and Zender, C. S.: Convection-Permitting Simulations With the E3SM Global Atmosphere Model, J. Adv. Model. Earth Sy., 13, e2021MS002544,, 2021. a
Chang, K.-W. and L'Ecuyer, T.: Influence of gravity wave temperature anomalies and their vertical gradients on cirrus clouds in the tropical tropopause layer – a satellite-based view, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 12499–12514,, 2020. a
Short summary
The tropical tropopause layer exists between the troposphere and the stratosphere in the tropics. Very thin cirrus clouds cool Earth's surface by scrubbing water vapor (a greenhouse gas) out of air parcels as they ascend through the tropical tropopause layer on their way to the stratosphere. We show observational evidence from aircraft that small-scale (< 100 km) gravity waves and turbulence increase the amount of ice in these clouds and may allow them to remove more water vapor from the air.
Final-revised paper