Standing eddy fluxes of geopotential are derived from Northern Hemisphere conventional and satellite data. Vertical and meridional wave guide behaviour is clearly evident for planetary-scale wave disturbances in the extratropical winter troposphere and stratosphere. In accordance with zonal harmonic perturbation model studies (steady-state and linearized) of forced planetary wave propagation, the observed standing wave geopotential flux patterns are characterized by a marked dependence on zonal wavenumber and the basic state transmission properties (refractive index squared). Transports for the middle and upper stratosphere are based on satellite measurements of thermal radiation and represent the first quantitative analysis at these levels of two-dimensional wave guide effects associated with individual zonal wave disturbances for a quiescent stratospheric winter period. © 1981 Nature Publishing Group.