All Physics Faculty Publications

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Geophysical Research






American Geophysical Union

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



A high-performance, all-sky imaging system has been used to obtain novel data on the morphology and dynamics of short-period (<1 hour) gravity waves at equatorial latitudes. Gravity waves imaged in the upper mesosphere and lower thermosphere were recorded in three nightglow emissions, the near-infrared OH emission, and the visible wavelength OI (557.7 nm) and Na (589.2 nm) emissions spanning the altitude range ∼80–100 km. The measurements were made from Alcantara, Brazil (2.3°S, 44.5°W), during the period August-October 1994 as part of the NASA/Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais “Guara campaign”. Over 50 wave events were imaged from which a statistical study of the characteristics of equatorial gravity waves has been performed. The data were found to divide naturally into two groups. The first group corresponded to extensive, freely propagating (or ducted) gravity waves with observed periods ranging from 3.7 to 36.6 min, while the second group consisted of waves of a much smaller scale and transient nature. The later group exhibited a bimodal distribution for the observed periods at 5.18 ± 0.26 min and 4.32 ± 0.15 min, close to the local Brunt-Vaisala period and the acoustic cutoff period, respectively. In comparison, the larger-scale waves exhibited a clear tendency for their horizontal wavelengths to increase almost linearly with observed period. This trend was particularly well defined around the equinox and can be represented by a power-law relationship of the form λ h = ( 3.1 ± 0.5 ) τ ob 1.06 ± 0.10 , where λ h is measured in kilometers and τob in minutes. This result is in very good agreement with previous radar and passive optical measurements but differs significantly from the relationship λ h ∝ τ105 ob inferred from recent lidar studies. The larger-scale waves were also found to exhibit strong anisotropy in their propagation headings with the dominant direction of motion toward the-NE-ENE suggesting a preponderance for wave generation over the South American continent.


Published by the American Geophysical Union in Journal of Geophysical Research:

Publisher PDF is available for download through the link above.

Included in

Physics Commons