Estimating Wind Velocities in Atmospheric Mountain Waves Using Sailplane Flight Data
Thesis DisciplineElectrical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Atmospheric mountain waves form in the lee of mountainous terrain under appropriate conditions of the vertical structure of wind speed and atmospheric stability. Trapped lee waves can extend hundreds of kilometers downwind from the mountain range, and they can extend tens of kilometers vertically into the stratosphere. Mountain waves are of importance in meteorology as they affect the general circulation of the atmosphere, can influence the vertical structure of wind speed and temperature fields, produce turbulence and downdrafts that can be an aviation hazard, and affect the vertical transport of aerosols and trace gasses, and ozone concentration.
Sailplane pilots make extensive use of mountain lee waves as a source of energy with which to climb. There are many sailplane wave flights conducted every year throughout the world and they frequently cover large distances and reach high altitudes. Modern sailplanes frequently carry flight recorders that record their position at regular intervals during the flight. There is therefore potential to use this recorded data to determine the 3D wind velocity at positions on the sailplane flight path. This would provide an additional source of information on mountain waves to supplement other measurement techniques that might be useful for studies on mountain waves. The recorded data are limited however, and determination of wind velocities is not straightforward.
This thesis is concerned with the development and application of techniques to determine the vector wind field in atmospheric mountain waves using the limited flight data collected during sailplane flights. A detailed study is made of the characteristics, uniqueness, and sensitivity to errors in the data, of the problem of estimating the wind velocities from limited flight data consisting of ground velocities, possibly supplemented by air speed or heading data. A heuristic algorithm is developed for estimating 3D wind velocities in mountain waves from ground velocity and air speed data, and the algorithm is applied to flight data collected during “Perlan Project” flights. The problem is then posed as a statistical estimation problem and maximum likelihood and maximum a posteriori estimators are developed for a variety of different kinds of flight data. These estimators are tested on simulated flight data and data from Perlan Project flights.