The dynamics of mesoscale winds in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere

Jörn Callies, Oliver Bühler, Raffaele Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spectral analysis is applied to infer the dynamics of mesoscale winds from aircraft observations in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Two datasets are analyzed: one collected aboard commercial aircraft and one collected using a dedicated research aircraft. A recently developed wave-vortex decomposition is used to test the observations' consistency with linear inertia-gravity wave dynamics. The decomposition method is shown to be robust in the vicinity of the tropopause if flight tracks vary sufficiently in altitude. For the lower stratosphere, the decompositions of both datasets confirm a recent result that mesoscale winds are consistent with the polarization and dispersion relations of inertia-gravity waves. For the upper troposphere, however, the two datasets disagree: only the research aircraft data indicate consistency with linear wave dynamics at mesoscales. The source of the inconsistency is a difference in mesoscale variance of the measured along-track wind component. To further test the observed flow's consistency with linear wave dynamics, the ratio between tropospheric and stratospheric mesoscale energy levels is compared to a simple model of upward-propagating waves that are partially reflected at the tropopause. For both datasets, the observed energy ratio is roughly consistent with the simple wave model, but wave frequencies diagnosed from the data draw into question the applicability of the monochromatic theory at wavelengths smaller than 10 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4853-4872
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016


  • Aircraft observations
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Inertia-gravity waves
  • Mesoscale processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The dynamics of mesoscale winds in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this