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  1. Abstract

    Atmospheric waves in the tropical tropopause layer are recognized as a significant influence on processes that impact global climate. For example, waves drive the quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO) in equatorial stratospheric winds and modulate occurrences of cirrus clouds. However, the QBO in the lower stratosphere and thin cirrus have continued to elude accurate simulation in state‐of‐the‐art climate models and seasonal forecast systems. We use first‐of‐their‐kind profile measurements deployed beneath a long‐duration balloon to provide new insights into impacts of fine‐scale waves on equatorial cirrus clouds and the QBO just above the tropopause. Analysis of these balloon‐borne measurements reveals previously uncharacterized fine‐vertical‐scale waves (<1 km) with large horizontal extent (>1000 km) and multiday periods. These waves affect cirrus clouds and QBO winds in ways that could explain current climate model shortcomings in representing these stratospheric influences on climate. Accurately simulating these fine‐vertical‐scale processes thus has the potential to improve sub‐seasonal to near‐term climate prediction.

  2. Abstract

    The quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO), a ubiquitous feature of the zonal mean zonal winds in the equatorial lower stratosphere, is forced by selective dissipation of atmospheric waves that range in periods from days to hours. However, QBO circulations in numerical models tend to be weak compared with observations, probably because of limited vertical resolution that cannot adequately resolve gravity waves and the height range over which they dissipate. Observations are required to help quantify wave effects. The passage of a superpressure balloon (SPB) near a radiosonde launch site in the equatorial Western Pacific during the transition from the eastward to westward phase of the QBO at 20 km permits a coordinated study of the intrinsic frequencies and vertical structures of two inertia‐gravity wave packets with periods near 1 day and 3 days, respectively. Both waves have large horizontal wavelengths of about 970 and 5,500 km. The complementary nature of the observations provided information on their momentum fluxes and the evolution of the waves in the vertical. The near 1 day westward propagating wave has a critical level near 20 km, while the eastward propagating 3‐day wave is able to propagate through to heights near 30 km before dissipation. Estimates of the forcing provided by the momentum fluxmore »convergence, taking into account the duration and scale of the forcing, suggests zonal force of about 0.3–0.4 m s−1 day−1for the 1‐day wave and about 0.4–0.6 m s−1 day−1for the 3‐day wave, which acts for several days.

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  3. Abstract. A novel fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing instrument, the Fiber-optic Laser Operated Atmospheric Temperature Sensor (FLOATS), was developed for continuous in situ profiling of the atmosphere up to 2 km below constant-altitude scientific balloons. The temperature-sensingsystem uses a suspended fiber-optic cable and temperature-dependent scattering of pulsed laser light in the Raman regime to retrieve continuous3 m vertical-resolution profiles at a minimum sampling period of 20 s.FLOATS was designed for operation aboard drifting super-pressure balloons inthe tropical tropopause layer at altitudes around 18 km as part of theStratéole 2 campaign. A short test flight of the system was conductedfrom Laramie, Wyoming, in January 2021 to check the optical, electrical, andmechanical systems at altitude and to validate a four-reference temperaturecalibration procedure with a fiber-optic deployment length of 1170 m. During the 4 h flight aboard a vented balloon, FLOATS retrieved temperatureprofiles during ascent and while at a float altitude of about 19 km. TheFLOATS retrievals provided differences of less than 1.0 ∘Ccompared to a commercial radiosonde aboard the flight payload during ascent.At float altitude, a comparison of optical length and GPS position at thebottom of the fiber-optic revealed little to no curvature in the fiber-opticcable, suggesting that the position of any distributed temperaturemeasurement can be effectively modeled. Comparisons of the distributedmore »temperature retrievals to the reference temperature sensors show strongagreement with root-mean-square-error values less than 0.4 ∘C. Theinstrument also demonstrated good agreement with nearby meteorologicalobservations and COSMIC-2 satellite profiles. Observations of temperatureand wind perturbations compared to the nearby radiosounding profiles provide evidence of inertial gravity wave activity during the test flight. Spectral analysis of the observed temperature perturbations shows that FLOATS is an effective and pioneering tool for the investigation of small-scale gravity waves in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  4. In the Stratéole 2 program, set to launch in November 2018, instruments will ride balloons into the stratosphere and circle the world, observing properties of the air and winds in fine detail.