Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Vincent B. Wickwar


Vincent B. Wickwar


Michael J. Taylor


Bela G. Fejer


Eric D. Held


Stephen E. Bialkowski


A Rayleigh-scatter lidar operated from Utah State University (41.7°N, 111.8°W) for a period spanning 11 years ― 1993 through 2004. Of the 900 nights observed, data on 150 extended to 90 km or above. They were the ones used in these studies related to atmospheric gravity waves (AGWs) between 45 and 90 km. This is the first study of AGWs with an extensive data set that spans the whole mesosphere. Using the temperature and temperature gradient profiles, we produced a climatology of the Brunt-Väisälä (buoyancy) angular frequency squared, N2 (rad/s)2. The minimum and maximum values of N2 vary between 2.2×10-4 (rad/s)2 and 9.0×10-4 (rad/s)2. The corresponding buoyancy periods vary between 7.0 and 3.5 minutes. While for long averages the atmosphere above Logan, Utah, is convectively stable, all-night and hourly profiles showed periods of convective instability (i.e., N2 < 0). The N2 values were often significantly different from values derived from the NRL-MSISe00 model atmosphere because of the effects of inversion layers and semiannual variability in the lidar data.

Relative density fluctuation profiles with 3-km altitude resolution and 1-hour temporal resolution showed the presence of monochromatic gravity waves on almost every night throughout the mesosphere. The prevalent values of vertical wavelength and vertical phase velocity were 12-16 km and 0.5-0.6 m/s, respectively. However, the latter has the significant seasonal variation. Using these two observed parameters, buoyancy periods, and the AGW dispersion relation, we derived the ranges of horizontal wavelength, phase velocity, and source distance. The prevalent values were 550-950 km, 32-35 m/s, and 2500-3500 km, respectively.

The potential energy per unit mass EP showed great night-to-night variability, up to a factor of 20, at all heights. EP grew at approximately the adiabatic rate below 55-65 km and above 75-80 km. Step function decreases in EP imply that the AGWs in between gave up considerable energy to the background atmosphere. In addition, EP varies seasonally. Below 70 km, it has a semiannual variation with a maximum in winter and minima in the equinoxes. At the highest altitudes it has an annual variation with a maximum in winter and a minimum in summer.