Gravity wave activity in the upper mesosphere over Urbana, Illinois: Lidar observations and analysis of gravity wave propagation models

Richard L. Collins, Xin Tao, Chester S. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze 375 h of Na Wind/Temperature lidar measurements of the mesopause region (≈80-105 km) Na density and temperature profiles on 57 nights distributed over 2 yr at Urbana, Illinois. These observations yield a high-resolution seasonal data set of gravity wave activity in the upper mesosphere. From this data, we present measurements of the Brunt-Väisälä period, the relative atmospheric density perturbations and their spectra, and the parameters of 143 quasi-monochromatic gravity waves. The direct measurement of the Brunt-Väisälä period allows accurate calculation of the horizontal velocity perturbations and vertical displacement perturbations from the density measurements. The horizontal velocity and vertical displacement vertical wave number spectrum magnitudes and indices show considerable seasonal and nightly variability. The gravity wave amplitudes, wavelengths, and observed periods exhibit systematic relationships similar to those found in previous studies, and are consistent with the MU radar measurements of intrinsic gravity wave parameters. Here, we present a detailed analysis of the observations in terms of Diffusive-Filtering Theory models of gravity wave propagation. The magnitudes of the vertical wave number spectrum, the form of the joint vertical wave number and frequency spectrum, and the systematic relationships between the monochromatic gravity wave parameters are consistent with the Diffusive-Filtering model. We compare these results with a variety of radar, lidar, and airglow observations from other sites. This observational study suggests that the complex nonlinear interactions of the gravity wave field may be modeled successfully as a diffusive damping process, where the effective diffusivity is a function of the total wave variance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1905-1926
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Geophysics
  • Engineering(all)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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