Orographic and convective gravity waves above the Alps and Andes Mountains during GPS radio occultation events – a case study

Hierro, Rodrigo; Steiner, Andrea K.; de la Torre, Alejandro; Alexander, Peter; Llamedo, Pablo; Cremades, Pablo

Gravity waves (GWs) and convective systems play a fundamental role in atmospheric circulation, weather, and climate. Two usual main sources of GWs are orographic effects triggering mountain waves and convective activity. In addition, GW generation by fronts and geostrophic adjustment must also be considered. The utility of Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) observations for the detection of convective systems is tested. A collocation database between RO events and convective systems over subtropical to midlatitude mountain regions close to the Alps and Andes is built. From the observation of large-amplitude GW structures in the absence of jets and fronts, subsets of RO profiles are sampled. A representative case study among those considered at each region is selected and analyzed. The case studies are investigated using mesoscale Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) simulations, ERA-Interim reanalysis data, and measured RO temperature profiles. The absence of fronts or jets during both case studies reveals similar relevant GW features (main parameters, generation, and propagation). Orographic and convective activity generates the observed GWs. Mountain waves above the Alps reach higher altitudes than close to the Andes. In the Andes case, a critical layer prevents the propagation of GW packets up to stratospheric heights. The case studies are selected also because they illustrate how the observational window for GW observations through RO profiles admits a misleading interpretation of structures at different altitude ranges. From recent results, the distortion introduced in the measured atmospheric vertical wavelengths by one of the RO events is discussed as an illustration. In the analysis, both the elevation angle of the sounding path (line of tangent points) and the gravity wave aspect ratio estimated from the simulations and the line of sight are taken into account. In both case studies, a considerable distortion, over- and underestimation of the vertical wavelengths measured by RO, may be expected.

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Hierro, Rodrigo / Steiner, Andrea K. / de la Torre, Alejandro / et al: Orographic and convective gravity waves above the Alps and Andes Mountains during GPS radio occultation events – a case study. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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