This is a 5-year scientific collaboration to investigate the dynamics in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) over the Andes Mountains in northern Chile. The objective is to characterize and understand wave phenomenology in the 80 to 100 km region, including background state interactions and effects. The investigation will be carried out at the newly established Andes Lidar Observatory (ALO) at Cerro Pachón (30.3°S, 70.7°W, 2530 m), Chile. This location is uniquely important for wave studies because it is a region of steep terrain and prolific wave generation that produces particularly pure examples of terrain generated waves due to the extreme dryness of the area and relative lack of convection, and it provides data for a region, the subtropical Southern Hemisphere, that currently is poorly characterized in terms of planetary waves, tides and gravity waves. The suite of instruments at ALO comprises a Na wind/temperature lidar, an all sky imager, a multichannel photometer, a mesospheric temperature mapper, an infrared camera, and a meteor radar, which will be used to observe waves and wave phenomena over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. The project aims to provide the most detailed study to date from a Southern Hemisphere mountainous site of the characteristics and variability of instabilities, gravity waves, tides, planetary waves and mean winds and their interactions over a continuous 5-year period. Specific questions that will be addressed include: 1) What is the climatology of waves and wave related phenomenology over the Andes? 2) What are the origins, lifecycle and morphology of instabilities at ALO? 3) What atmospheric conditions lead to the formation of various wave phenomena? 4) What are the characteristics of the interactions between tides, planetary waves and gravity waves and their effects on the MLT variability?

The project will provide new education and training opportunities for students at all three universities involved. International collaborations with strong student involvement will also be pursued under this project with the Ciudad Universitaria, Argentina and the University of Adelaide, Australia. The unique dataset collected during this project will be made available to the scientific community and will support research on a wide range of scientific topics in both atmospheric science and astronomy.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
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Therese Moretto Jorgensen
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Utah State University
United States
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