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Changes in the 300-mb North Circumpolar Vortex, 1963–2001

James K. AngellNOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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Abstract

The mean monthly polar stereographic map analyses of the Free University of Berlin terminated at the end of 2001. This paper summarizes the changes in size of the 300-mb north circumpolar vortex, and quadrants, for the full period of record, 1963–2001, where the size has been defined by planimetering the area poleward of contours in the jet stream core. A contracted vortex has tended to be a deep vortex in winter but a shallow vortex in summer. During 1963–2001 there was a statistically significant decrease in vortex size of 1.5% per decade, the decrease in size of Western Hemisphere quadrants being twice that of Eastern Hemisphere quadrants. A significant increase in Arctic Oscillation (AO) index accompanies the significant decrease in vortex size, but since the vortex contracts appreciably in all four seasons, whereas the positive trend in the AO index is mainly in winter, the vortex cannot serve as a proxy for the AO index. The evidence for vortex contraction at the time of the 1976–77 regime shift is not conclusive, but there is good evidence for a 6% increase in vortex size due to the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. There is little change in vortex size following the 1982 El Chichon eruption, however. Because on average there is a significant 4% contraction of the vortex following an El Niño, it is proposed that the vortex expansion to be expected following the 1982 El Chichon eruption has been contravened by the contraction following the strong 1982–83 El Niño. There is little relation between vortex size and phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), and the evidence for a contracted vortex near 11-yr sunspot maxima is tenuous because the vortex record extends through only three full sunspot cycles. There is a highly significant tendency for opposite vortex quadrants 0°–90°E and 90°W–180° to vary in size together, indicating either a pulsating polar vortex or the propagation of planetary wavenumber 2.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James K. Angell, NOAA/ Air Resources Laboratory, 1315 East–West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Email: marcia.wood@noaa.gov

Abstract

The mean monthly polar stereographic map analyses of the Free University of Berlin terminated at the end of 2001. This paper summarizes the changes in size of the 300-mb north circumpolar vortex, and quadrants, for the full period of record, 1963–2001, where the size has been defined by planimetering the area poleward of contours in the jet stream core. A contracted vortex has tended to be a deep vortex in winter but a shallow vortex in summer. During 1963–2001 there was a statistically significant decrease in vortex size of 1.5% per decade, the decrease in size of Western Hemisphere quadrants being twice that of Eastern Hemisphere quadrants. A significant increase in Arctic Oscillation (AO) index accompanies the significant decrease in vortex size, but since the vortex contracts appreciably in all four seasons, whereas the positive trend in the AO index is mainly in winter, the vortex cannot serve as a proxy for the AO index. The evidence for vortex contraction at the time of the 1976–77 regime shift is not conclusive, but there is good evidence for a 6% increase in vortex size due to the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. There is little change in vortex size following the 1982 El Chichon eruption, however. Because on average there is a significant 4% contraction of the vortex following an El Niño, it is proposed that the vortex expansion to be expected following the 1982 El Chichon eruption has been contravened by the contraction following the strong 1982–83 El Niño. There is little relation between vortex size and phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), and the evidence for a contracted vortex near 11-yr sunspot maxima is tenuous because the vortex record extends through only three full sunspot cycles. There is a highly significant tendency for opposite vortex quadrants 0°–90°E and 90°W–180° to vary in size together, indicating either a pulsating polar vortex or the propagation of planetary wavenumber 2.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James K. Angell, NOAA/ Air Resources Laboratory, 1315 East–West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Email: marcia.wood@noaa.gov

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