Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Physics


Doctoral Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Alan Z. Liu. Ph.D

First Committee Member

Dr. Michael P. Hickey, Ph.D

Second Committee Member

Dr. Jonathan B. Snively, Ph.D

Third Committee Member

Dr. Gary R. Swenson, Ph.D


Gravity waves and thermal tides are two of the most important dynamical features of the atmosphere. They are both generated in the lower atmosphere and propagate upward transporting energy and momentum to the upper atmosphere. This dissertation focuses on the interaction of these waves in the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere using both observational data and Global Circulation Model (GCMs). The first part of this work focuses on observations of gravity wave interactions with the tides using both LIDAR data at the Star Fire Optical Range (SOR, 35_N, 106.5_W) and a meteor radar data at the Andes LIDAR Observatory (ALO, 30.3_S, 70.7_W). At SOR, the gravity waves are shown to enhance or damp the amplitude of the diurnal variations dependent on altitude while the phase is always delayed. The results compare well with previous mechanistic model results and with the Japanese Atmospheric General circulation model for Upper Atmosphere Research (JAGUAR) high resolution global circulation model. The meteor radar observed the GWs to almost always enhance the tidal amplitudes and either delay or advance the phase depending on the altitude. When compared to previous radar results from the same meteor radar when it was located in Maui, Hawaii, the Chile results are very similar while the LIDAR results show significant differences. This is because of several instrument biases when calculating GW momentum fluxes that is not significant when determining the winds. The radar needs to perform large amounts of all-sky averaging across many weeks, while the LIDAR directly detects waves in a small section of sky. The second part of this work focuses on gravity wave parameterization scheme effects on the tides in GCMs. The Specified Dynamics Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (SD-WACCM) and the extended Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model (eCMAM) are used for this analysis. The gravity wave parameterization schemes in the eCMAM (Hines scheme) have been shown to enhance the tidal amplitudes compared to observations while the parameterization scheme in SD-WACCM (Lindzen scheme) overdamps the tides. It is shown here that the Hines scheme assumption that only small scale gravity waves force the atmosphere do not create enough drag to properly constrain the tidal amplitudes. The Lindzen scheme produces too much drag because all wave scales are assumed to be saturated thus continuing to provide forcing on the atmosphere above the breaking altitude. The final part of this work investigates GWs, tides and their interactions on a local time scale instead of a global scale in the two GCMs. The local time GWs in eCMAM are found to have a strong seasonal dependence, with the majority of the forcings at the winter pole at latitudes where the diurnal variations are weak limiting their interactions. In SD-WACCM, the largest local GW forcings are located at mid latitudes near where the diurnal variations peak causing them to dampen the diurnal amplitudes. On a local time level the diurnal variations may be a summation of many tidal modes. The analysis reveals that in eCMAM the DW1 tidal mode is by far the dominant mode accounting for the local time variations. The high amount of modulation of GWs by the DW1 tidal winds does not allow it to be properly constrained, causing it to dominate the local time diurnal variations. Similarly, the DW1 projection of GW forcing is dominant over all other modes and contributes the most to the local time diurnal GW variations. The local time wind variations in SD-WACCM are influenced by several tidal modes because the DW1 tide is of compatible amplitudes to other modes. This is because of the increased damping on the tide by the GWs. It is also found that the local GW diurnal variations have significant contributions from all tidal modes due to the time and location of the forcing being dependent only on the tropospheric source regions and not the at altitude tidal winds.