Wave breaking signatures in OH airglow and sodium densities and temperatures 1. Airglow imaging, Na lidar, and MF radar observations

J. H. Hecht, R. L. Walterscheid, D. C. Fritts, J. R. Isler, D. C. Senft, C. S. Gardner, S. J. Franke

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The Collaborative Observations Regarding the Nightglow (CORN) campaign took place at the Urbana Atmospheric Observatory during September 1992. The instrumentation included, among others, the Aerospace Corporation narrowband nightglow CCD camera, which observes the OH Meinel (6-2) band (hereafter designated OH) and the O2 atmospheric (0-1) band (hereafter designated O2) nightglow emissions; the University of Illinois Na density/temperature lidar; and the University of Illinois MF radar. Here we report on observations of small-scale (below 10-km horizontal wavelength) structures in the OH airglow images obtained with the CCD camera. These small-scale structures were aligned perpendicular to the motion of 30- to 50-km horizontal wavelength waves, which had observed periods of about 10-20 min. The small-scale structures were present for about 20 min and appear to be associated with an overturned or breaking atmospheric gravity wave as observed by the lidar. The breaking wave had a horizontal wavelength of between 500 and 1500 km, a vertical wavelength of about 6 km, and an observed period of between 4 and 6 hours. The motion of this larger-scale wave was in the same direction as the ≈30- to 50-km waves. While such small-scale structures have been observed before, and have been previously described as ripple-type wave structures [Taylor and Hapgood, 1990], these observations are the first which can associate their occurrence with independent evidence of wave breaking. The characteristics of the observed small-scale structures are similar to the vortices generated during wave breakdown in three dimensions in simulations described in Part 2 of this study [Fritts et al., this issue]. The results of this study support the idea that ripple type wave structures we observe are these vortices generated by convective instabilities rather than structures generated by dynamical instabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96JD02619
Pages (from-to)6655-6668
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue numberD6
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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