EGU24-21740, updated on 08 Apr 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

How realistic are resolved gravity waves in ERA5 reanalysis compared to satellite observations?

Neil Hindley1, M. Joan Alexander2, Martina Bramberger2, Manfred Ern3, Lars Hoffmann3, Laura Holt2, Riwal Plougonven4, Inna Polichtchouk5, Claudia Stephan6, Annelize van Niekerk5, and Corwin Wright1
Neil Hindley et al.
  • 1Centre for Climate, Adaptation and Environment Research, University of Bath, UK
  • 2Northwest Research Associates, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Jülich Supercomputing Centre, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany
  • 4Ecole polytechnique, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, France
  • 5European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, UK
  • 6Leibniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Rostock , Kühlungsborn, Germany

Modern numerical modelling simulations of the Earth's atmosphere have developed over the recent decades to ever finer spatial resolutions, allowing for a greater portion the atmospheric gravity wave (GW) spectrum to be resolved. Specialised global simulations with kilometre-scale resolutions have been performed offline that can resolve very large portions of the GW spectrum in the lower stratosphere and, as such, the balance between resolved and parameterised (unresolved) GW forcing in today's numerical simulations of the middle atmosphere is shifting. However, these kilometre-scale simulations are still too computationally costly to perform routinely and can quickly deviate from their initial conditions, which makes validating the resolved gravity waves in these simulations with satellite observations challenging. For this reason, a growing number of studies are using resolved GWs in lower-resolution stratospheric reanalyses as proxies for GWs in the real atmosphere, due to the apparent reliability, long timescale, global coverage and real-date data assimilation of these reanalysis products. However, these resolved GWs in reanalyses have not been widely tested or compared to satellite observations of GWs to assess their realism. One reason why such a comparison has been so challenging is due to the different ranges of GW wavelengths to which any given model or observational instrument is sensitive due to its grid spacing or sampling and resolution limits, an effect known as the observational filter. Therefore, any like-for-like assessment of resolved GWs in reanalysis using satellite observations must be able to sample the model using the exact sampling and resolution of the instrument. Here we use 3-D satellite observations from AIRS/Aqua to evaluate the realism of resolved stratospheric gravity waves in ERA5 reanalysis produced by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). We carefully apply the sampling and resolution limits of AIRS to the model using a full 3-D weighting function for each measurement footprint to create synthetic measurements of the ERA5 stratosphere as if were viewed by AIRS. We then follow identical processing steps to detrend, regrid and spectrally analyse both the real and synthetic measurements to recover localised GW amplitudes, wavelengths and directional momentum fluxes between 25 and 45 km altitude. We investigate the global momentum budget of GWs in reanalysis compared to observations and compare the seasonality and spectral properties of GWs over known stratospheric hot spots. Our preliminary results suggest that AIRS measurements exhibit more frequent large-amplitude wave events at larger horizontal wavelengths (greater than 150km) and larger net momentum fluxes overall than equivalent ERA5 measurements. Our satellite-sampling approach is applicable to any GW-resolving model, and sets out a potential roadmap towards more direct validation and comparison of resolved mesoscale dynamics in numerical models that could help to guide developments in the coming era of high-spatial resolution atmospheric modelling.

How to cite: Hindley, N., Alexander, M. J., Bramberger, M., Ern, M., Hoffmann, L., Holt, L., Plougonven, R., Polichtchouk, I., Stephan, C., van Niekerk, A., and Wright, C.: How realistic are resolved gravity waves in ERA5 reanalysis compared to satellite observations?, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-21740,, 2024.