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Stratosphere–Troposphere Exchange and Its Relation to Potential Vorticity Streamers and Cutoffs near the Extratropical Tropopause

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  • 1 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • | 2 Institute for Atmospheric Physics, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Abstract

Two distinct dynamical processes near the dynamical tropopause (2-PVU surface) and their relation are discussed in this study: stratosphere–troposphere exchange (STE) and the formation of distinct potential vorticity (PV) structures in the form of stratospheric and tropospheric streamers and cutoffs on isentropic surfaces. Two previously compiled climatologies based upon the 15-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-15) dataset (from 1979 to 1993) are used to establish and quantify the link between STE and these PV structures.

An event-based analysis reveals a strong relation between the two processes. For instance, on isentropes below 320 K, 30%–50% of the stratospheric streamers are associated with downward STE. In the reverse perspective, between 60% and 80% of all STE events between 290 and 350 K are found in the vicinity of at least one PV structure. On different isentropes, the averaged downward (STT) and upward (TST) mass fluxes associated with PV structures are quantified.

As a novel quantity, the activity of a particular PV structure is measured as the STT/TST flux per unit length of its boundary on the considered isentropic level. The STT activity for stratospheric streamers and the TST activity of tropospheric streamers reach similar values of 3 × 109 kg km−1 h−1. Thereby, the flux is not uniformly distributed along a streamer’s boundary. STT (TST) is found preferentially on the upstream (downstream) side of stratospheric streamers, and vice versa for tropospheric streamers. This asymmetry is lost for cutoffs, for which an essentially uniform distribution results along the boundaries.

Finally, the link between STE and PV structures shows considerable geographical variability. Particularly striking is the fact that nearly all deep STT events (reaching levels below 700 hPa) over central Europe and the North American west coast are associated with a stratospheric streamer.

Corresponding author address: Michael Sprenger, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zentrum, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland. Email: michael.sprenger@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Two distinct dynamical processes near the dynamical tropopause (2-PVU surface) and their relation are discussed in this study: stratosphere–troposphere exchange (STE) and the formation of distinct potential vorticity (PV) structures in the form of stratospheric and tropospheric streamers and cutoffs on isentropic surfaces. Two previously compiled climatologies based upon the 15-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-15) dataset (from 1979 to 1993) are used to establish and quantify the link between STE and these PV structures.

An event-based analysis reveals a strong relation between the two processes. For instance, on isentropes below 320 K, 30%–50% of the stratospheric streamers are associated with downward STE. In the reverse perspective, between 60% and 80% of all STE events between 290 and 350 K are found in the vicinity of at least one PV structure. On different isentropes, the averaged downward (STT) and upward (TST) mass fluxes associated with PV structures are quantified.

As a novel quantity, the activity of a particular PV structure is measured as the STT/TST flux per unit length of its boundary on the considered isentropic level. The STT activity for stratospheric streamers and the TST activity of tropospheric streamers reach similar values of 3 × 109 kg km−1 h−1. Thereby, the flux is not uniformly distributed along a streamer’s boundary. STT (TST) is found preferentially on the upstream (downstream) side of stratospheric streamers, and vice versa for tropospheric streamers. This asymmetry is lost for cutoffs, for which an essentially uniform distribution results along the boundaries.

Finally, the link between STE and PV structures shows considerable geographical variability. Particularly striking is the fact that nearly all deep STT events (reaching levels below 700 hPa) over central Europe and the North American west coast are associated with a stratospheric streamer.

Corresponding author address: Michael Sprenger, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zentrum, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland. Email: michael.sprenger@env.ethz.ch

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