Date of Award:

5-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Physics

Advisor/Chair:

Michael J. Taylor

Abstract

An important property of the Earth's atmosphere is its ability to support wave motions, and indeed, waves exist throughout the Earth's atmosphere at all times and all locations. What is the importance of these waves? Imagine standing on the beach as water waves come crashing into you. In this case, the waves transport energy and momentum to you, knocking you o ff balance. Similarly, waves in the atmosphere crash, known as breaking, but what do they crash into? They crash into the atmosphere knocking the atmosphere off balance in terms of the winds and temperatures. Although the Earth's atmosphere is full of waves, they cannot be observed directly; however, their effects on the atmosphere can be observed. Waves can be detected in the winds and temperatures, as mentioned above, but also in pressure and density. In this dissertation, three different studies of waves, known as gravity waves, were performed at three different locations.

For these studies, we investigate the size of the waves and in which direction they move. Using specialized cameras, gravity waves were observed in the middle atmosphere (50-70 miles up) over Alaska (for three winter times) and Norway (for one winter time). A third study investigated gravity waves at a much higher altitude (70 miles on up) using radar data from Alaska (for three years). These studies have provided important new information on these waves and how they move through the atmosphere. This in turn helps to understand in which direction these waves are crashing into the atmosphere and therefore, which direction the energy and momentum are going. Studies such as these help to better forecast weather and climate.

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