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David W. J. Thompson and David J. Lorenz

Abstract

The extratropical annular modes are coupled with a distinct pattern of climate anomalies that spans the circulation of the tropical troposphere. The signature of the annular modes in the tropical troposphere exhibits a high degree of equatorial symmetry. It is associated with upper-tropospheric zonal wind anomalies centered about the equator, midtropospheric temperature anomalies located ∼20°N and 20°S, and opposing mean meridional circulation anomalies that span the subtropics of both hemispheres. The linkages between the annular modes and the tropical circulation are only evident during the cold season months, and are most robust in association with the Northern Hemisphere annular mode (NAM).

The coupling between the annular modes and the circulation of the tropical troposphere is consistent with forcing by waves originating at extratropical latitudes. Both annular modes are characterized by anomalies in the eddy momentum flux convergence at tropical latitudes that act to reinforce the changes in the tropical wind and temperature fields. The most pronounced tropical anomalies lag indices of the annular modes by ∼2 weeks and are found over the eastern tropical Pacific, where climatological westerlies permit extratropical waves to propagate into the deep Tropics. The linkages between the NAM and the tropical tropospheric circulation are most pronounced during the cold phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation cycle.

The recent trend in the NAM is linearly congruent with a ∼0.1-K cooling of the tropical troposphere over the past two decades during the Northern Hemisphere winter season.

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Kevin M. Grise and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Equatorial planetary waves are a fundamental component of the tropical climate system. Previous studies have examined their structure in the climatological-mean circulation, their role in the climatological-mean momentum balance of the tropics, and their contribution to the climatological-mean upwelling across the tropical tropopause. In this study, the authors focus on the contribution of the equatorial planetary waves to variability in the tropical circulation about its climatological-mean state.

The equatorial planetary waves that dominate the climatological mean exhibit considerable variability on intraseasonal and interannual time scales. Variability in the amplitude of the equatorial planetary waves is associated with a distinct pattern of equatorially symmetric climate variability that also emerges from empirical orthogonal function analysis of various tropical dynamical fields. Variability in the equatorial planetary waves is characterized by variations in 1) convection in the deep tropics, 2) eddy momentum flux convergence and zonal-mean zonal wind in the tropical upper troposphere, 3) the mean meridional circulation of the tropical and subtropical troposphere, 4) temperatures in the tropical lower stratosphere and subtropical troposphere of both hemispheres, and 5) the amplitude of the upper tropospheric anticyclones over the western tropical Pacific Ocean.

It is argued that pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves provides an alternative framework for interpreting the response of the tropical circulation to a range of climate phenomena. Pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves is apparent in association with opposing phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation and select phases of the Madden–Julian oscillation. Pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves also contributes to variability in measures of the width of the tropical belt.

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Laura M. Ciasto and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

The authors provide a detailed examination of observed ocean–atmosphere interaction in the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Focus is placed on the observed relationships between variability in SH extratropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, the Southern Annular Mode (SAM), and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Results are examined separately for the warm (November–April) and cold (May–October) seasons and for monthly and weekly time scales. It is shown that the signatures of the SAM and ENSO in the SH SST field vary as a function of season, both in terms of their amplitudes and structures. The role of surface turbulent and Ekman heat fluxes in driving seasonal variations in the SAM- and ENSO-related SST anomalies is investigated. Analyses of weekly data reveal that variability in the SAM tends to precede anomalies in the SST field by ∼1 week, and that the e-folding time scale of the SAM-related SST field anomalies is at least 4 months. The persistence of the SAM-related SST anomalies is consistent with the passive thermal response of the Southern Ocean to variations in the SAM, and seasonal variations in the persistence of the SAM-related SST anomalies are consistent with the seasonal cycle in the depth of the ocean mixed layer.

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John M. Wallace and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

The leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF) of the sea level pressure (SLP) field, referred to as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) or Northern Hemisphere annular mode (NAM), consists of a dipole between the polar cap region and the surrounding zonal ring centered along 45°N. Embedded within the outer ring are centers of action over the Euro-Atlantic and Pacific sectors in which SLP fluctuates in phase. That the observed SLP fluctuations at these two centers of action are virtually uncorrelated raises the question of whether the Pacific center in the annular mode could be an artifact of EOF analysis.

It is argued that sea level pressure fluctuations at the Pacific and Euro-Atlantic centers of action of the AO/NAM would be more strongly correlated were it not for the fact that SLP variability over the North Pacific is dominated by a pattern in which fluctuations over the North Atlantic and North Pacific are inversely related. Evidence of the coexistence of such a pattern, which resembles an augmented version of the Pacific–North American pattern, is presented.

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David W. J. Thompson and Thomas Birner

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated the key role of baroclinicity and thus the isentropic slope in determining the climatological-mean distribution of the tropospheric eddy fluxes of heat. Here the authors examine the role of variability in the isentropic slope in driving variations in the tropospheric eddy fluxes of heat about their long-term mean during Northern Hemisphere winter.

On month-to-month time scales, the lower-tropospheric isentropic slope and eddy fluxes of heat are not significantly correlated when all eddies are included in the analysis. But the isentropic slope and heat fluxes are closely linked when the data are filtered to isolate the fluxes due to synoptic (<10 days) and low-frequency (>10 days) time scale waves. Anomalously steep isentropic slopes are characterized by anomalously poleward heat fluxes by synoptic eddies but anomalously equatorward heat fluxes by low-frequency eddies. Lag regressions based on daily data reveal that 1) variations in the isentropic slope precede by several days variations in the heat fluxes by synoptic eddies and 2) variations in the heat fluxes due to both synoptic and low-frequency eddies precede by several days similarly signed variations in the momentum flux at the tropopause level.

The results suggest that seemingly modest changes in the tropospheric isentropic slope drive significant changes in the synoptic eddy heat fluxes and thus in the generation of baroclinic wave activity in the lower troposphere. The linkages have implications for understanding the extratropical tropospheric eddy response to a range of processes, including anthropogenic climate change, stratospheric variability, and extratropical sea surface temperature anomalies.

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Laura M. Ciasto and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Observations of subsurface temperatures are used to examine the winter-to-winter “reemergence” of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the extratropical South Pacific Ocean. Reemergence is the mechanism through which SST anomalies formed in the late winter are sequestered beneath the relatively shallow summer mixed layer and then reentrained into the deepening mixed layer during the following autumn/winter. Although several studies have extensively examined reemergence in the Northern Hemisphere (NH), this is the first study to use observations of subsurface temperatures to document reemergence in the extratropical Southern Hemisphere (SH). The SH subsurface data reveal a pronounced reemergence signal in the western extratropical South Pacific. In this region, surface thermal anomalies formed during late SH winter are observed to persist below the summertime mixed layer and reemerge at the surface during the following early winter months. As such, SST anomalies formed during late winter are strongly correlated with SST anomalies during the following early winter but are not significantly correlated with SST anomalies during the intervening summer months. The results based on subsurface data are robust to small changes in the period of analysis and are qualitatively similar to existing evidence of reemergence in the NH. Analyses of independent SST data reveal that reemergence is widespread in the western extratropical South Pacific basin but is less discernible in SST anomalies over the eastern part of the basin.

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Edwin P. Gerber and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Annular patterns with a high degree of zonal symmetry play a prominent role in the natural variability of the atmospheric circulation and its response to external forcing. But despite their apparent importance for understanding climate variability, the processes that give rise to their marked zonally symmetric components remain largely unclear. Here the authors use simple stochastic models in conjunction with an atmospheric model and observational analyses to explore the conditions under which annular patterns arise from empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of the flow. The results indicate that annular patterns arise not only from zonally coherent fluctuations in the circulation (i.e., “dynamical annularity”) but also from zonally symmetric statistics of the circulation in the absence of zonally coherent fluctuations (i.e., “statistical annularity”). It is argued that the distinction between dynamical and statistical annular patterns derived from EOF analysis can be inferred from the associated variance spectrum: larger differences in the variance explained by an annular EOF and successive EOFs generally indicate underlying dynamical annularity. The authors provide a simple recipe for assessing the conditions that give rise to annular EOFs of the circulation. When applied to numerical models, the recipe indicates dynamical annularity in parameter regimes with strong feedbacks between eddies and the mean flow. When applied to observations, the recipe indicates that annular EOFs generally derive from statistical annularity of the flow in the midlatitude troposphere but from dynamical annularity in both the stratosphere and the mid–high-latitude Southern Hemisphere troposphere.

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David W. J. Thompson and John M. Wallace

Abstract

The leading modes of variability of the extratropical circulation in both hemispheres are characterized by deep, zonally symmetric or “annular” structures, with geopotential height perturbations of opposing signs in the polar cap region and in the surrounding zonal ring centered near 45° latitude. The structure and dynamics of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) annular mode have been extensively documented, whereas the existence of a Northern Hemisphere (NH) mode, herein referred to as the Arctic Oscillation (AO), has only recently been recognized. Like the SH mode, the AO can be defined as the leading empirical orthogonal function of the sea level pressure field or of the zonally symmetric geopotential height or zonal wind fields. In this paper the structure and seasonality of the NH and SH modes are compared based on data from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis and supplementary datasets.

The structures of the NH and SH annular modes are shown to be remarkably similar, not only in the zonally averaged geopotential height and zonal wind fields, but in the mean meridional circulations as well. Both exist year-round in the troposphere, but they amplify with height upward into the stratosphere during those seasons in which the strength of the zonal flow is conducive to strong planetary wave–mean flow interaction: midwinter in the NH and late spring in the SH. During these “active seasons,” the annular modes modulate the strength of the Lagrangian mean circulation in the lower stratosphere, total column ozone and tropopause height over mid- and high latitudes, and the strength of the trade winds of their respective hemispheres. The NH mode also contains an embedded planetary wave signature with expressions in surface air temperature, precipitation, total column ozone, and tropopause height. It is argued that the horizontal temperature advection by the perturbed zonal-mean zonal wind field in the lower troposphere is instrumental in forcing this pattern.

A companion paper documents the striking resemblance between the structure of the annular modes and observed climate trends over the past few decades.

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Kevin M. Grise and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Temperatures in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) play an important role in stratosphere–troposphere exchange and in the formation and maintenance of thin cirrus clouds. Many previous studies have examined the contributions of extratropical and equatorial waves to the TTL using coarse-vertical-resolution satellite and reanalysis data. In this study, the authors provide new insight into the role of extratropical and equatorial waves in the TTL using high-vertical-resolution GPS radio occultation data.

The results examine the influence of four different wave forcings on the TTL: extratropical waves that propagate vertically into the stratosphere, extratropical waves that propagate meridionally into the subtropical stratosphere, extratropical waves that propagate meridionally into the subtropical troposphere, and the equatorial planetary waves. The vertically and meridionally propagating extratropical stratospheric waves are associated with deep, zonally symmetric temperature anomalies that extend and amplify with height throughout the lower-to-middle tropical stratosphere. In contrast, the extratropical tropospheric waves and the equatorial planetary waves are associated with tropical temperature anomalies that are confined below 20-km altitude. The equatorial planetary waves dominate the zonally asymmetric component of the TTL temperature field, and both the equatorial planetary waves and the extratropical tropospheric waves are linked to large temperature variability in a 1–2-km-deep layer near the tropical tropopause. The fine vertical scale of the TTL temperature features associated with the equatorial planetary waves and the extratropical tropospheric waves is only readily apparent in high-vertical-resolution data.

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Ying Li and David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

The signatures of large-scale annular variability on the vertical structure of clouds and cloud radiative effects are examined in vertically resolved CloudSat and other satellite and reanalysis data products. The northern and southern “barotropic” annular modes (the NAM and SAM) have a complex vertical structure. Both are associated with a meridional dipole in clouds between subpolar and middle latitudes, but the sign of the anomalies changes between upper, middle, and lower tropospheric levels. In contrast, the northern and southern baroclinic annular modes have a much simpler vertical structure. Both are linked to same-signed anomalies in clouds extending throughout the troposphere at middle to high latitudes. The changes in cloud incidence associated with both the barotropic and baroclinic annular modes are consistent with dynamical forcing by the attendant changes in static stability and/or vertical motion. The results also provide the first observational estimates of the vertically resolved atmospheric cloud radiative effects associated with hemispheric-scale extratropical variability. In general, the anomalies in atmospheric cloud radiative effects associated with the annular modes peak in the middle to upper troposphere, and are consistent with the anomalous trapping of longwave radiation by variations in upper tropospheric clouds. The southern baroclinic annular mode gives rise to periodic behavior in longwave cloud radiative effects at the top of the atmosphere averaged over Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes.

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