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Brent A. McDaniel and Robert X. Black

Abstract

The Northern Hemisphere annular mode (NAM) accounts for a significant fraction of the extratropical wintertime atmospheric variability. The dynamics of NAM events have been studied on monthly time scales, but little is known about the physical mechanisms that give rise to NAM variability on shorter time scales. Composite diagnostic analyses based on daily NAM indices are performed with a goal of identifying the dominant processes responsible for the growth and decay of large-amplitude positive and negative NAM events on short intraseasonal time scales.

Transformed Eulerian mean, piecewise potential vorticity inversions, and regional Plumb flux diagnoses are employed to deduce the proximate forcings of the zonal-mean wind tendency during maturing and declining NAM stages. A remarkable degree of reverse symmetry is observed between the zonal-mean dynamical evolution of positive and negative NAM events. Anomalous equatorward and downward (poleward and upward) Eliassen–Palm fluxes are observed during the maturation of positive (negative) NAM events, consistent with index of refraction considerations and an indirect downward stratospheric influence. The associated patterns of anomalous wave driving provide the primary forcing of the zonal wind tendency field. Spectral analyses reveal that both the stratospheric and tropospheric patterns of wave driving are primarily due to low-frequency planetary-scale eddies. Regional wave activity flux diagnoses further illustrate that this wave-driving pattern represents the zonal-mean manifestation of planetary-scale anomalies over the North Atlantic that are linked to local anomalies in stationary wave forcing. The decay of NAM events coincides with the collapse in the pattern of anomalous stationary wave forcing over the North Atlantic region. Our diagnostic results indicate that both (i) synoptic eddies and (ii) direct downward stratospheric forcing provide second-order reinforcing contributions to the intraseasonal dynamical evolution of NAM events.

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Robert X. Black and Brent A. McDaniel

Abstract

Recent observational studies of the northern annular mode (NAM) indicate that significant case-to-case variability exists in the structural evolution of individual events. In particular, certain NAM events remain confined to stratospheric altitudes whereas others readily penetrate downward into the troposphere. We perform observational diagnostic analyses that are targeted at identifying the physical mechanisms behind this distinction. Our results thereby provide a test of the different existing theories regarding stratospheric influences upon tropospheric climate.

We contrast robust stratospheric NAM events with differing tropospheric signals in order to identify the underlying dynamical reasons for the observed differences. Piecewise potential vorticity (PV) inversions and Eliassen–Palm flux analyses are performed to study the roles of different forcing mechanisms during NAM onset. Our results indicate that variations in the tropospheric response are readily explained on the basis of piecewise PV inversions. Specifically, during individual cases, preexisting tropospheric PV anomaly features can mask the downward penetration of an initial stratospheric NAM signal into the troposphere. Analyses of PV inversions further suggest that a minimum requirement for a direct downward stratospheric influence is that the stratospheric NAM signal be robust in the lower stratosphere. Thus, whether or not a tropospheric NAM signal emerges from a stratospheric NAM event is largely dependent upon (i) whether stratospheric PV anomalies descend to sufficiently low altitudes within the stratosphere and (ii) the detailed nature of preexisting annular modes in the troposphere. Parallel Eliassen–Palm flux analyses further indicate that anomalous Rossby wave forcing is important for initiating NAM events in the midstratosphere and facilitating their downward advance into the lower stratosphere.

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Robert X. Black and Brent A. McDaniel

Abstract

A principal component analysis is performed to characterize intraseasonal variability in the boreal stratospheric polar vortex. In contrast to previous studies, the current analysis examines daily zonal-mean variability within a limited spatial domain encompassing the stratospheric polar vortex. The leading EOFs are vertically coherent north–south dipoles in the zonal-mean zonal wind extending through the lower stratosphere. The first mode represents variability in polar vortex strength and is highly correlated with the stratospheric northern annular mode (SNAM). The second mode, the polar annular mode (PAM), represents variability in the latitudinal position of the polar vortex and possesses a poleward-retracted dipole anomaly structure. Composite analyses indicate that large-amplitude PAM events are relatively short lived (1–2 weeks) compared to SNAM events (1 month or longer). Trend analyses further reveal that recent decadal trends in the boreal polar vortex project more strongly onto PAM than SNAM.

Composite analyses illustrate that the time evolution of sudden stratospheric warming events is dominated by SNAM, whereas SNAM and PAM play approximately equal roles in final warming events. Linear regression analyses reveal that SNAM and PAM result in circumpolar circulation and temperature anomalies of similar magnitudes within the high-latitude troposphere. It is concluded that PAM represents a previously unrecognized annular mode that strongly couples the stratosphere and troposphere on submonthly time scales at mid- to high latitudes. It is further suggested that the SNAM/PAM framework provides a means for isolating the proximate tropospheric response to respective variations in the strength and position of the stratospheric polar vortex.

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Robert X. Black and Brent A. McDaniel

Abstract

A lag composite analysis is performed of the zonal-mean structure and dynamics of Northern Hemisphere stratospheric final warming (SFW) events. SFW events are linked to distinct zonal wind deceleration signatures in the stratosphere and troposphere. The period of strongest stratospheric decelerations (SD) is marked by a concomitant reduction in the high-latitude tropospheric westerlies. However, a subsequent period of tropospheric decelerations (TD) occurs while the stratospheric circulation relaxes toward climatological conditions. During SFW onset, a wavenumber-1 disturbance at stratospheric altitudes evolves into a circumpolar anticyclonic circulation anomaly.

Transformed Eulerian-mean dynamical diagnoses reveal that the SD period is characterized by an anomalous upward Eliassen–Palm (EP) signature at high latitudes extending from the surface to the middle stratosphere. The associated wave-driving pattern consists of zonal decelerations extending from the upper troposphere to the midstratosphere. Piecewise potential vorticity tendency analyses further indicate that zonal wind decelerations in the lower and middle troposphere result, at least in part, from the direct response to latitudinal redistributions of potential vorticity occurring in the lower stratosphere. The TD period exhibits a distinct dynamical behavior with anomalous downward EP fluxes in the high-latitude stratosphere as the zero zonal wind line descends toward the tropopause. This simultaneously allows the stratospheric polar vortex to radiatively recover while providing anomalous upper-tropospheric zonal decelerations (as tropospheric Rossby wave activity is vertically trapped in the high-latitude troposphere). The tropospheric decelerations that occur during the TD period are regarded as a subsequent indirect consequence of SFW events.

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Robert X. Black and Brent A. McDaniel

Abstract

A composite observational analysis is presented demonstrating that austral stratospheric final warming (SFW) events provide a substantial organizing influence upon the large-scale atmospheric circulation in the Southern Hemisphere. In particular, the annual weakening of high-latitude westerlies in the upper troposphere and stratosphere is accelerated during SFW onset. This behavior is associated with a coherent annular circulation change with zonal wind decelerations (accelerations) at high (low) latitudes. The high-latitude stratospheric decelerations are induced by the anomalous wave driving of upward-propagating tropospheric waves. Longitudinally asymmetric circulation changes occur in the lower troposphere during SFW onset with regionally localized height increases (decreases) at subpolar (middle) latitudes. Importantly, the tropospheric and stratospheric circulation change patterns identified here are structurally distinct from the Southern Annular Mode. It is concluded that SFW events are linked to interannual atmospheric variability with potential bearing upon weather and climate prediction.

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Robert X. Black, Brent A. McDaniel, and Walter A. Robinson

Abstract

The authors perform an observational study of the relation between stratospheric final warmings (SFWs) and the boreal extratropical circulation. SFW events are found to provide a strong organizing influence upon the large-scale circulation of the stratosphere and troposphere during the period of spring onset. In contrast to the climatological seasonal cycle, SFW events noticeably sharpen the annual weakening of high-latitude circumpolar westerlies in both the stratosphere and troposphere. A coherent pattern of significant westerly (easterly) zonal wind anomalies is observed to extend from the stratosphere to the earth’s surface at high latitudes prior to (after) SFW events, coinciding with the polar vortex breakdown. This evolution is associated with a bidirectional dynamical coupling of the stratosphere–troposphere system in which tropospheric low-frequency waves induce annular stratospheric circulation anomalies, which in turn, are followed by annular tropospheric circulation anomalies.

The regional tropospheric manifestation of SFW events consists of a North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-like phase transition in the near-surface geopotential height field, with height rises over polar latitudes and height falls over the northeast North Atlantic. This lower-tropospheric change pattern is distinct from the climatological seasonal cycle, which closely follows seasonal trends in thermal forcing at the lower boundary. Although broadly similar, the tropospheric anomaly patterns identified in the study do not precisely correspond to the canonical northern annular mode (NAM) and NAO patterns as the primary anomaly centers are retracted northward toward the pole. The results here imply that (i) high-latitude climate may be particularly sensitive to long-term trends in the annual cycle of the stratospheric polar vortex and (ii) improvements in the understanding and simulation of SFW events may benefit medium-range forecasts of spring onset in the extratropics.

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