Tracking Kelvin waves from the equatorial troposphere into the stratosphere

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Convectively coupled Kelvin waves in the troposphere have a vertically propagating component which propagates through the tropical tropopause layer into the stratosphere. In the tropical tropopause layer above the typical top of deep convection, these waves propagate as dry waves. In the stratosphere they contribute to the forcing of the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation. Here, we address the challenge to track individual waves in a region where both static stability and background wind rapidly change with a new algorithm that operates in real space and uses the full longitude/height/time information available to reliably identify Kelvin waves. We argue that our algorithm overcomes inherent ambiguities in previously published methods. Specifically, our algorithm cleanly separates wave activity and number of waves, and successfully tracks waves also in regions where background wind reduces wave amplitudes. Applied to ECMWF reanalysis data for the period 1989-2011, we obtain a statistical description of Kelvin wave propagation that shows propagation through the TTL into the stratosphere occurs predominantly over the Indian Ocean and Atlantic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD21108
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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