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Nicholas J. Byrne, Theodore G. Shepherd, Tim Woollings, and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

Statistical models of climate generally regard climate variability as anomalies about a climatological seasonal cycle, which are treated as a stationary stochastic process plus a long-term seasonally dependent trend. However, the climate system has deterministic aspects apart from the climatological seasonal cycle and long-term trends, and the assumption of stationary statistics is only an approximation. The variability of the Southern Hemisphere zonal-mean circulation in the period encompassing late spring and summer is an important climate phenomenon and has been the subject of numerous studies. It is shown here, using reanalysis data, that this variability is rendered highly nonstationary by the organizing influence of the seasonal breakdown of the stratospheric polar vortex, which breaks time symmetry. It is argued that the zonal-mean tropospheric circulation variability during this period is best viewed as interannual variability in the transition between the springtime and summertime regimes induced by variability in the vortex breakdown. In particular, the apparent long-term poleward jet shift during the early-summer season can be more simply understood as a delay in the equatorward shift associated with this regime transition. The implications of such a perspective for various open questions are discussed.

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Diane J. Ivy, Casey Hilgenbrink, Doug Kinnison, R. Alan Plumb, Aditi Sheshadri, Susan Solomon, and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Much research has focused on trends in the Southern Hemispheric circulation in austral summer (December–February) in the troposphere and stratosphere, whereas changes in other seasons have received less attention. Here the seasonality and structure of observed changes in tropospheric and stratospheric winds, temperature, and ozone over the Southern Hemisphere are examined. It is found that statistically significant trends similar to those of the Antarctic summer season are also observed since 1979 in austral fall, particularly May, and are strongest over the Pacific sector of the hemisphere. Evidence is provided for a significant shift in the position of the jet in May over the Pacific, and it is shown that the strengthening and shifting of the jet has rendered the latitudinal distribution of upper-tropospheric zonal wind more bimodal. The Antarctic ozone hole has cooled the lower stratosphere and strengthened the polar vortex. While the mechanism and timing are not fully understood, the ozone hole has been identified as a key driver of the summer season tropospheric circulation changes in several previous observational and modeling studies. It is found here that significant ozone depletion and associated polar cooling also occur in the lowermost stratosphere and tropopause region through austral fall, with spatial patterns that are coincident with the observed changes in stratospheric circulation. It is also shown that radiatively driven temperature changes associated with the observed ozone depletion in May represent a substantial portion of the observed May cooling in the lowermost stratosphere, suggesting a potential for contribution to the circulation changes.

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