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Tiffany A. Shaw and Judith Perlwitz


It is well established that interannual variability of eddy (meridional) heat flux near the tropopause controls the variability of Arctic lower-stratospheric temperatures during spring via a modification of the strength of the residual circulation. While most studies focus on the role of anomalous heat flux values, here the impact of total (climatology plus anomaly) negative heat flux events on the Arctic stratosphere is investigated. Utilizing the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset, it is found that total negative heat flux events coincide with a transient reversal of the residual circulation and cooling of the Arctic lower stratosphere. The negative events weaken the seasonally averaged adiabatic warming.

The analysis provides a new interpretation of the winters of 1997 and 2011, which are known to have the lowest March Arctic lower-stratospheric temperatures in the satellite era. While most winters involve positive and negative heat flux extremes, the winters of 1997 and 2011 are unique in that they only involved extreme negative events. This behavior contributed to the weakest adiabatic downwelling in the satellite era and suggests a dynamical contribution to the extremely low temperatures during those winters that could not be accounted for by diabatic processes alone. While it is well established that dynamical processes contribute to the occurrence of stratospheric sudden warming events via extreme positive heat flux events, the results show that dynamical processes also contribute to cold winters with subsequent impact on Arctic ozone loss. The results highlight the importance of interpreting stratospheric temperatures in the Arctic in the context of the dynamical regime with which they are associated.

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Nili Harnik, Richard K. Scott, and Judith Perlwitz


Observations of the Southern Hemispheric winter conditions indicate that the major warming of September 2002 resulted from a combination of stationary wave-1 and traveling wave-2 forcing events and suggest that wave and mean-flow anomalies present earlier that winter may have also played a role. Quantities such as the location of the zero wind line, the strength and wave geometry of the vortex, and the horizontal and vertical wave fluxes all differed significantly from climatological values throughout much of the 2002 winter. An analysis of the anomalous features suggests the hypothesis that the persistence of a traveling wave 2 may have increased the likelihood of the combination with stationary wave 1, leading to the observed unprecedented increase in upward Eliassen–Palm flux preceding the warming.

The anomalous conditions of the 2002 winter began as early as mid-May of that year and consisted of a large burst of wave flux into the stratosphere and a strong deceleration of the vortex during its early stage of development. The low-latitude easterly anomaly that resulted from this (unprecedented) event appears to have enhanced the poleward focusing of wave activity in the mid- and upper stratosphere during the rest of the winter. The altered wave geometry of the 2002 vortex allowed internal reflection of traveling wave 2, which helps to explain its unusual persistence during the rest of the winter.

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