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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

The length of the westerly phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of zonal wind in the equatorial stratosphere is examined using the longest available record (1950–2001). An earlier finding by Salby and Callagan of a systematic quasi-decadal modulation of the QBO period is confirmed, although the earlier suggestion of a strong connection with the solar cycle is less clear in the extended record.

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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

A 21-year record of monthly mean determinations of the solar semidiurnal surface pressure oscillation [S 2(p) at Batavia (6.2°S) was analyzed to detect long-period variability. When the S 2(p) determination were resolved into components which peak at local midnight (and noon) and 0900 (and 2100) local solar time, considerable evidence was found for a quasi-biennial variation in the 0900 component (but not in the midnight component). It is shown that this is consistent with the expected response of S 2(p) to the familiar quasi-biennial oscillation of the tropical stratosphere.

Also apparent in the record is a very long term trend in S 2(p). It is suggested that this way be an indication of a similar trend in stratospheric ozone, and the possibility of using the surface pressure oscillation in monitoring long-term changes in atmospheric ozone is discussed.

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Kevin Hamilton

This paper discusses observations of the winds in the tropical stratosphere taken before the advent of regular operational balloon soundings in this region. These observations are at least broadly consistent with modern measurements, in the sense that they show that the winds in the tropical stratosphere have been undergoing some strong interannual variations over the last century. However, the available data appear to be too sparse to construct a detailed chronology of the quasi-biennial oscillation before about 1950.

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Kevin Hamilton

The unusual spring and summer weather of the year 1816 in central Canada is discussed using Canadian newspaper accounts together with manuscript records from early amateur weather observers. Many of the spectacular meteorological events of this year that are known to have affected the northeast United States have close parallels in central Canada. The available instrumental records suggest that the summer of 1816 in central Canada was colder than any that has been observed in more-recent times.

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Kevin Hamilton

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Surface meteorological data at several stations over the period 1875–1936 are examined in relation to solar activity. In particular an attempt is made to we if these historical data can be reconciled with the sun-QBO-weather relationship recently found in modern (post-1950) data by van Loon and Labitzke (vLL). The basic problem in extending vLL's analysis to earlier periods is ignorance of the phase of the QBO. In the present study, vLL's computations are repeated for the historical data using several million possible sequences for the phase of the QBO. The results reveal problems in reproducing vLL's results in the earlier data. This indicates either that the QBO behaved differently in the past, or that vLL's results for a solar-weather relationship are not stable over the long term.

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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

A 48-yr integration was performed using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory SKYHI troposphere–stratosphere–mesosphere GCM with an imposed zonal momentum forcing designed to produce a quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in the tropical stratosphere. In response to this forcing, the model generates a QBO in the tropical circulation that includes some very realistic features, notably the asymmetry between the strength of the descending easterly and westerly shear zones, and the tendency for the initial westerly accelerations to appear quite narrowly confined to the equator. The extratropical circulation in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter stratosphere is affected by the tropical QBO in a manner similar to that observed. In particular, the polar vortex is generally weaker in winters in which there are easterlies in the tropical middle stratosphere. Roughly two-thirds of the largest midwinter polar warmings occur when the equatorial 30-mb winds are easterly, again in rough agreement with observations. Despite this effect, however, the total interannual variance in the zonal-mean extratropical circulation in the model apparently is slightly decreased by the inclusion of the tropical QBO. The observed QBO dependence of the winter-mean stratospheric extratropical stationary wave patterns is also quite well reproduced in the model.

The QBO was also found to have a profound influence on stratospheric stationary waves at low latitudes. Near and above 10 mb the NH stationary waves were found to penetrate across the equator during the westerly QBO phase, but to be restricted to latitudes poleward of ∼10°N during the easterly phase. This means that the equatorial QBO in prevailing wind near and above 10 mb has a significant zonally asymmetric component. If this is also true in the real atmosphere, there are important implications for the adequacy of the current observational rawindsonde network near the equator.

Analysis of the zonal-mean zonal momentum budget in the tropical stratosphere reveals that the resolved waves in the model are strong enough to force the realized accelerations through much of the QBO cycle. The exception appears to be the easterly acceleration phase below about 20 mb. The implications of this for the generation of a self-consistent QBO by GCMs will be considered.

The effects of the imposed QBO on the troposphere were found to be very modest. There does appear to be a statistically significant weakening (by ∼1 m s−1) of the high-latitude winter vortex in the middle and upper troposphere. Given the very high predictability of the stratospheric QBO itself, this effect could possibly be used to enhance the skill of seasonal weather forecasts. No significant QBO influence was found in the model precipitation field.

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Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

A zonal-mean climatology of the temperature, geostrophic zonal winds and the beat and momentum transports associated with the geostrophic winds has been constructed on the basis of almost four years of routine weekly analyses from the National Meteorological Center (NMC). The region considered extends from 10 to 85°N and from 100 to 0.4 mb. The complete set of tables describing this climatology is available in an NCAR technical report (Hamilton, 1982). In the present paper the rationale for using the NMC analyses is given and a few of the highlights of the results are displayed.

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Axel Lauer and Kevin Hamilton

Abstract

Clouds are a key component of the climate system affecting radiative balances and the hydrological cycle. Previous studies from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) showed quite large biases in the simulated cloud climatology affecting all GCMs as well as a remarkable degree of variation among the models that represented the state of the art circa 2005. Here the progress that has been made in recent years is measured by comparing mean cloud properties, interannual variability, and the climatological seasonal cycle from the CMIP5 models with satellite observations and with results from comparable CMIP3 experiments. The focus is on three climate-relevant cloud parameters: cloud amount, liquid water path, and cloud radiative forcing. The comparison shows that intermodel differences are still large in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) simulations, and reveals some small improvements of particular cloud properties in some regions in the CMIP5 ensemble over CMIP3. In CMIP5 there is an improved agreement of the modeled interannual variability of liquid water path and of the modeled longwave cloud forcing over mid- and high-latitude oceans with observations. However, the differences in the simulated cloud climatology from CMIP3 and CMIP5 are generally small, and there is very little to no improvement apparent in the tropical and subtropical regions in CMIP5.

Comparisons of the results from the coupled CMIP5 models with their atmosphere-only versions run with observed SSTs show remarkably similar biases in the simulated cloud climatologies. This suggests the treatments of subgrid-scale cloud and boundary layer processes are directly implicated in the poor performance of current GCMs in simulating realistic cloud fields.

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Kevin Hamilton and Li Yuan

Abstract

A 30-level version of the rhomboidal-15 GFDL spectral climate model was constructed with roughly 2-km vertical resolution. In common with other comprehensive general circulation models, this model fails to produce a realistic quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in the tropical stratosphere.

A number of simulations were conducted in which the zonal-mean winds and temperatures in the equatorial lower and middle stratosphere were instantaneously perturbed and the model was integrated while the mean state relaxed toward its equilibrium. The time scale for the mean wind relaxation varied from somewhat over one month at 40 km to a few months in the lower stratosphere. This is similar to the time scales of observed QBO wind reversals. The wind relaxations in the model also displayed the downward phase propagation characteristic of QBO wind reversals, and mean wind anomalies of opposite sign to the imposed perturbation appear at higher levels. In the GCM, however, the downward propagation is clear only above about 20 mb.

Detailed investigations were made of the zonal-mean zonal momentum budget in the equatorial stratosphere in these experiments. The mean flow relaxations above 20 mb were mostly driven by the vertical Eliassen-Palm flux convergence. The anomalies in the horizontal Eliassen-Palm fluxes from extratropical planetary waves, however, were found to be the dominant effect forcing the mean flow back to its equilibrium at altitudes below 20 mb. The vertical eddy momentum fluxes near the equator in the model were decomposed using space-time Fourier analysis. While total fluxes associated with easterly and westerly waves are comparable to those used in simple mechanistic models of the QBO, the GCM has its flux spread over a very broad range of wavenumbers and phase speeds.

The effects of vertical resolution were studied directly by repeating part of the control integration with a 69-level version of the model with greatly enhanced vertical resolution in the lower and middle stratosphere. The results showed that there is almost no sensitivity of the simulation in the tropical stratosphere to the increased vertical resolution.

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Takatoshi Sakazaki and Kevin Hamilton

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We used newly available ERA5 hourly global data to examine the variations of atmospheric circulation on global scales and high frequencies. The space–time spectrum of surface pressure displays a typical red background spectrum but also a striking number of isolated peaks. Some peaks represent astronomically forced tides, but we show that most peaks are manifestations of the ringing of randomly excited global-scale resonant modes, reminiscent of the tones in a spectrum of a vibrating musical instrument. A few such modes have been tentatively identified in earlier observational investigations, but we demonstrate the existence of a large array of normal mode oscillations with periods as short as 2 h. This is a powerful and uniquely detailed confirmation of the predictions of the theory of global oscillations that has its roots in the work of Laplace two centuries ago. The delineation of the properties of the modes provides valuable diagnostic information about the atmospheric circulation. Notably the amplitudes and widths of the normal mode spectral peaks contain information on the forcing mechanisms and energy dissipation for the modes, and the simulation of these properties for each of the many modes we have identified can serve as tests for global climate and weather prediction models.

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