Gravity Wave Ducting Observed in the Mesosphere Over Jicamarca, Peru

Gerald A. Lehmacher, Erhan Kudeki, Pablo M. Reyes, Kiwook Lee, Christopher J. Heale, Jonathan B. Snively

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Short-period gravity waves are ubiquitous in the mesosphere, but the vertical structures of their perturbations are difficult to observe. The Jicamarca 50-MHz very high frequency radar allows observations of winds and turbulent scatter with high temporal and vertical resolution. We present a case of a quasi-monochromatic gravity wave with period 520 (±40) s that is likely ducted below a southward wind jet between 68 and 74 km. Above this layer of evanescence, a northward wind enables it to emerge into a more stable layer, where it is refracted to a short vertical wavelength of 2.2 (±0.2) km; data show evidence of weak nonlinearity, and possible overturning or partial reflection from higher altitudes, above the observable region, in the form of a standing wave structure in vertical velocity at approximately 75 km. Based on the dispersion relation, and with help of a two-dimensional model, we determine that most likely the wave is propagating northward and is being ducted below and tunneling through the regions of evanescence created by the wind flow and typical mesospheric thermal structure. This is the first time that such an event has been identified in the Jicamarca mesospheric echoes, and it is distinct from Kelvin-Helmholtz billows also commonly seen with this sensitive radar—instead apparently revealing tunneling of the gravity wave through ambient winds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5166-5177
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 27 2019


  • VHF radar
  • gravity waves
  • mesospheric winds
  • wave ducting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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