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Le Kuai, Run-Lie Shia, Xun Jiang, Ka-Kit Tung, and Yuk L. Yung


It has often been suggested that the period of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) has a tendency to synchronize with the semiannual oscillation (SAO). Apparently the synchronization is better the higher up the observation extends. Using 45 yr of the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40) data of the equatorial stratosphere up to the stratopause, the authors confirm that this synchronization is not just a tendency but a robust phenomenon in the upper stratosphere. A QBO period starts when a westerly SAO (w-SAO) descends from the stratopause to 7 hPa and initiates the westerly phase of the QBO (w-QBO) below. It ends when another w-SAO, a few SAO periods later, descends again to 7 hPa to initiate the next w-QBO. The fact that it is the westerly but not the easterly SAO (e-SAO) that initiates the QBO is also explained by the general easterly bias of the angular momentum in the equatorial stratosphere so that the e-SAO does not create a zero-wind line, unlike the w-SAO. The currently observed average QBO period of 28 months, which is not an integer multiple of SAO periods, is a result of intermittent jumps of the QBO period from four SAO to five SAO periods. The same behavior is also found in the Two and a Half Dimensional Interactive Isentropic Research (THINAIR) model. It is found that the nonstationary behavior in both the observation and model is caused not by the 11-yr solar-cycle forcing but by the incompatibility of the QBO’s natural period (determined by its wave forcing) and the “quantized” period determined by the SAO. The wave forcing parameter for the QBO period in the current climate probably lies between four SAO and five SAO periods. If the wave forcing for the QBO is tuned so that its natural period is compatible with the SAO period above (e.g., at 24 or 30 months), nonstationary behavior disappears.

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Le Kuai, Run-Lie Shia, Xun Jiang, Ka Kit Tung, and Yuk L. Yung


The authors examine the mechanism of solar cycle modulation of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) period using the Two-and-a-Half-Dimensional Interactive Isentropic Research (THINAIR) model. Previous model results (using 2D and 3D models of varying complexity) have not convincingly established the proposed link of longer QBO periods during solar minima. Observational evidence for such a modulation is also controversial because it is only found during the period from the 1960s to the early 1990s, which is contaminated by volcanic aerosols. In the model, 200- and 400-yr runs without volcano influence can be obtained, long enough to establish some statistical robustness. Both in model and observed data, there is a strong synchronization of the QBO period with integer multiples of the semiannual oscillation (SAO) in the upper stratosphere. Under the current level of wave forcing, the period of the QBO jumps from one multiple of SAO to another and back so that it averages to 28 months, never settling down to a constant period. The “decadal” variability in the QBO period takes the form of “quantum” jumps; these, however, do not appear to follow the level of the solar flux in either the observation or the model using realistic quasi-periodic solar cycle (SC) forcing. To understand the solar modulation of the QBO period, the authors perform model runs with a range of perpetual solar forcing, either lower or higher than the current level. At the current level of solar forcing, the model QBO period consists of a distribution of four and five SAO periods, similar to the observed distribution. This distribution changes as solar forcing changes. For lower (higher) solar forcing, the distribution shifts to more (less) four SAO periods than five SAO periods. The record-averaged QBO period increases with the solar forcing. However, because this effect is rather weak and is detectable only with exaggerated forcing, the authors suggest that the previous result of the anticorrelation of the QBO period with the SC seen in short observational records reflects only a chance behavior of the QBO period, which naturally jumps in a nonstationary manner even if the solar forcing is held constant, and the correlation can change as the record gets longer.

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