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John R. Albers
and
Terrence R. Nathan

Abstract

A mechanistic chemistry–dynamical model is used to evaluate the relative importance of radiative, photochemical, and dynamical feedbacks in communicating changes in lower-stratospheric ozone to the circulation of the stratosphere and lower mesosphere. Consistent with observations and past modeling studies of Northern Hemisphere late winter and early spring, high-latitude radiative cooling due to lower-stratospheric ozone depletion causes an increase in the modeled meridional temperature gradient, an increase in the strength of the polar vortex, and a decrease in vertical wave propagation in the lower stratosphere. Moreover, it is shown that, as planetary waves pass through the ozone loss region, dynamical feedbacks precondition the wave, causing a large increase in wave amplitude. The wave amplification causes an increase in planetary wave drag, an increase in residual circulation downwelling, and a weaker polar vortex in the upper stratosphere and lower mesosphere. The dynamical feedbacks responsible for the wave amplification are diagnosed using an ozone-modified refractive index; the results explain recent chemistry–coupled climate model simulations that suggest a link between ozone depletion and increased polar downwelling. The effects of future ozone recovery are also examined and the results provide guidance for researchers attempting to diagnose and predict how stratospheric climate will respond specifically to ozone loss and recovery versus other climate forcings including increasing greenhouse gas abundances and changing sea surface temperatures.

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John R. Albers
and
Terrence R. Nathan

Abstract

A mechanistic model that couples quasigeostrophic dynamics, radiative transfer, ozone transport, and ozone photochemistry is used to study the effects of zonal asymmetries in ozone (ZAO) on the model’s polar vortex. The ZAO affect the vortex via two pathways. The first pathway (P1) hinges on modulation of the propagation and damping of a planetary wave by ZAO; the second pathway (P2) hinges on modulation of the wave–ozone flux convergences by ZAO. In the steady state, both P1 and P2 play important roles in modulating the zonal-mean circulation. The relative importance of wave propagation versus wave damping in P1 is diagnosed using an ozone-modified refractive index and an ozone-modified vertical energy flux. In the lower stratosphere, ZAO cause wave propagation and wave damping to oppose each other. The result is a small change in planetary wave drag but a large reduction in wave amplitude. Thus in the lower stratosphere, ZAO “precondition” the wave before it propagates into the upper stratosphere, where damping due to photochemically accelerated cooling dominates, causing a large reduction in planetary wave drag and thus a colder polar vortex. The ability of ZAO within the lower stratosphere to affect the upper stratosphere and lower mesosphere is discussed in light of secular and episodic changes in stratospheric ozone.

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John R. Albers
and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Reanalysis data are used to evaluate the evolution of polar vortex geometry, planetary wave drag, and gravity wave drag prior to split versus displacement sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs). A composite analysis that extends upward to the lower mesosphere reveals that split SSWs are characterized by a transition from a wide, funnel-shaped vortex that is anomalously strong to a vortex that is constrained about the pole and has little vertical tilt. In contrast, displacement SSWs are characterized by a wide, funnel-shaped vortex that is anomalously weak throughout the prewarming period. Moreover, during split SSWs, gravity wave drag is enhanced in the polar night jet, while planetary wave drag is enhanced within the extratropical surf zone. During displacement SSWs, gravity wave drag is anomalously weak throughout the extratropical stratosphere.

Using the composite analysis as a guide, a case study of the 2009 SSW is conducted in order to evaluate the roles of planetary and gravity waves for preconditioning the polar vortex in terms of two SSW-triggering scenarios: anomalous planetary wave forcing from the troposphere and resonance due to either internal or external Rossby waves. The results support the view that split SSWs are caused by resonance rather than anomalously large wave forcing. Given these findings, it is suggested that vortex preconditioning, which is traditionally defined in terms of vortex geometries that increase poleward wave focusing, may be better described by wave events (planetary and/or gravity) that “tune” the geometry of the vortex toward its resonant excitation points.

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Alvaro de la Cámara
,
Thomas Birner
, and
John R. Albers

Abstract

A combination of 240 years of output from a state-of-the-art chemistry–climate model and a twentieth-century reanalysis product is used to investigate to what extent sudden stratospheric warmings are preceded by anomalous tropospheric wave activity. To this end we study the fate of lower tropospheric wave events (LTWEs) and their interaction with the stratospheric mean flow. These LTWEs are contrasted with sudden stratospheric deceleration events (SSDs), which are similar to sudden stratospheric warmings but place more emphasis on the explosive dynamical nature of such events. Reanalysis and model output provide very similar statistics: Around one-third of the identified SSDs are preceded by wave events in the lower troposphere, while two-thirds of the SSDs are not preceded by a tropospheric wave event. In addition, only 20% of all anomalous tropospheric wave events are followed by an SSD in the stratosphere. This constitutes statistically robust evidence that the anomalous amplification of wave activity in the stratosphere that drives SSDs is not necessarily due to an anomalous amplification of the waves in the source region (i.e., the lower troposphere). The results suggest that the dynamics in the lowermost stratosphere and the vortex geometry are essential, and should be carefully analyzed in the search for precursors of SSDs.

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John R. Albers
,
George N. Kiladis
,
Thomas Birner
, and
Juliana Dias

Abstract

The intrusion of lower-stratospheric extratropical potential vorticity into the tropical upper troposphere in the weeks surrounding the occurrence of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) is examined. The analysis reveals that SSW-related PV intrusions are significantly stronger, penetrate more deeply into the tropics, and exhibit distinct geographic distributions compared to their climatological counterparts. While climatological upper-tropospheric and lower-stratospheric (UTLS) PV intrusions are generally attributed to synoptic-scale Rossby wave breaking, it is found that SSW-related PV intrusions are governed by planetary-scale wave disturbances that deform the extratropical meridional PV gradient maximum equatorward. As these deformations unfold, planetary-scale wave breaking along the edge of the polar vortex extends deeply into the subtropical and tropical UTLS. In addition, the material PV deformations also reorganize the geographic structure of the UTLS waveguide, which alters where synoptic-scale waves break. In combination, these two intrusion mechanisms provide a robust explanation describing why displacement and split SSWs—or, more generally, anomalous stratospheric planetary wave events—produce intrusions with unique geographic distributions: displacement SSWs have a single PV intrusion maximum over the Pacific Ocean, while split SSWs have intrusion maxima over the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is also shown that the two intrusion mechanisms involve distinct time scales of variability, and it is highlighted that they represent an instantaneous and direct link between the stratosphere and troposphere. This is in contrast to higher-latitude stratosphere–troposphere coupling that occurs indirectly via wave–mean flow feedbacks.

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Steven C. Albers
,
John A. McGinley
,
Daniel L. Birkenheuer
, and
John R. Smart

Abstract

The Local Analysis and Prediction System combines numerous data sources into a set of analyses and forecasts on a 10-km grid with high temporal resolution. To arrive at an analysis of cloud cover, several input analyses are combined with surface aviation observations and pilot reports of cloud layers. These input analyses am a skin temperature analysis (used to solve for cloud layer heights and coverage) derived from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite IR 11.24-µm data, other visible and multispectral imagery, a three-dimensional temperature analysis, and a three-dimensional radar reflectivity analysis derived from full volumetric radar data. Use of a model first guess for clouds is currently being phased in. The goal is to combine the data sources to take advantage of their strengths, thereby automating the synthesis similar to that of a human forecaster.

The design of the analysis procedures and output displays focuses on forecaster utility. A number of derived fields are calculated including cloud type, liquid water content, ice content, and icing severity, as well as precipitation type, concentration, and accumulation. Results from validating the cloud fields against independent data obtained during the Winter Icing and Storms Project are presented.

Forecasters can now make use of these analyses in a variety of situations, such as depicting sky cover and radiation characteristics over a region, three-dimensionally delineating visibility and icing conditions for aviation, depicting precipitation type, rain and snow accumulation, etc.

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John R. Albers
,
Matthew Newman
,
Andrew Hoell
,
Melissa L. Breeden
,
Yan Wang
, and
Jiale Lou

Abstract

The sources of predictability for the February 2021 cold air outbreak (CAO) over the central United States, which led to power grid failures and water delivery shortages in Texas, are diagnosed using a machine learning–based prediction model called a linear inverse model (LIM). The flexibility and low computational cost of the LIM allows its forecasts to be used for identifying and assessing the predictability of key physical processes. The LIM may also be run as a climate model for sensitivity and risk analysis for the same reasons. The February 2021 CAO was a subseasonal forecast of opportunity, as the LIM confidently predicted the CAO’s onset and duration four weeks in advance, up to two weeks earlier than other initialized numerical forecast models. The LIM shows that the February 2021 CAO was principally caused by unpredictable internal atmospheric variability and predictable La Niña teleconnections, with nominally predictable contributions from the previous month’s sudden stratospheric warming and the Madden–Julian oscillation. When run as a climate model, the LIM estimates that the February 2021 CAO was in the top 1% of CAO severity and suggests that similarly extreme CAOs could be expected to occur approximately every 20–30 years.

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Melissa L. Breeden
,
John R. Albers
,
Amy H. Butler
, and
Matthew Newman

Abstract

On average, 2-m temperature forecasts over North America for lead times greater than two weeks have generally low skill in operational dynamical models, largely because of the chaotic, unpredictable nature of daily weather. However, for a small subset of forecasts, more slowly evolving climate processes yield some predictable signal that may be anticipated in advance, occasioning “forecasts of opportunity.” Forecasts of opportunity evolve seasonally, since they are a function of the seasonally varying jet stream and various remote forcings such as tropical heating. Prior research has demonstrated that for boreal winter, an empirical dynamical modeling technique called a linear inverse model (LIM), whose forecast skill is typically comparable to operational forecast models, can successfully identify forecasts of opportunity both for itself and for other dynamical models. In this study, we use a set of LIMs to examine how subseasonal North American 2-m temperature potential predictability and forecasts of opportunity vary from boreal winter through summer. We show how LIM skill evolves during the three phases of the spring transition of the North Pacific jet—late winter, spring, and early summer—revealing clear differences in each phase and a distinct skill minimum in spring. We identify a subset of forecasts with markedly higher skill in all three phases, despite LIM temperature skill that is somewhat low on average. However, skill improvements are only statistically significant during winter and summer, again reflecting the spring subseasonal skill minimum. The spring skill minimum is consistent with the skill predicted from theory and arises due to a minimum in LIM forecast signal-to-noise ratio.

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Alvaro de la Cámara
,
John R. Albers
,
Thomas Birner
,
Rolando R. Garcia
,
Peter Hitchcock
,
Douglas E. Kinnison
, and
Anne K. Smith

Abstract

The Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model, version 4 (WACCM4), is used to investigate the influence of stratospheric conditions on the development of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs). To this end, targeted experiments are performed on selected modeled SSW events. Specifically, the model is reinitialized three weeks before a given SSW, relaxing the surface fluxes, winds, and temperature below 10 km to the corresponding fields from the free-running simulation. Hence, the tropospheric wave evolution is unaltered across the targeted experiments, but the stratosphere itself can evolve freely. The stratospheric zonal-mean state is then altered 21 days prior to the selected SSWs and rerun with an ensemble of different initial conditions. It is found that a given tropospheric evolution concomitant with the development of an SSW does not uniquely determine the occurrence of an event and that the stratospheric conditions are relevant to the subsequent evolution of the stratospheric flow toward an SSW, even for a fixed tropospheric evolution. It is also shown that interpreting the meridional heat flux at 100 hPa as a proxy of the tropospheric injection of wave activity into the stratosphere should be regarded with caution and that stratospheric dynamics critically influence the heat flux at that altitude.

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Zachary D. Lawrence
,
Dillon Elsbury
,
Amy H. Butler
,
Judith Perlwitz
,
John R. Albers
,
Laura M. Ciasto
, and
Eric Ray

Abstract

The representation of the stratosphere and stratosphere–troposphere coupling processes is evaluated in the subseasonal Global Ensemble Forecast System, version 12 (GEFSv12), hindcasts. The GEFSv12 hindcasts develop systematic stratospheric biases with increasing lead time, including a too strong boreal wintertime stratospheric polar vortex. In the tropical stratosphere, the GEFSv12 winds and temperatures associated with the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) tend to decay with lead time such that they underestimate the observed amplitudes; consistently, the QBO-associated mean meridional circulation is too weak. The hindcasts predict extreme polar vortex events (including sudden stratospheric warmings and vortex intensifications) about 13–14 days in advance, and extreme lower-stratospheric eddy heat flux events about 6–10 days in advance. However, GEFSv12’s ability to predict these events is likely affected by its zonal-mean circulation biases, which increases the rates of false alarms and missed detections. Nevertheless, GEFSv12 shows stratosphere–troposphere coupling relationships that agree well with reanalysis and other subseasonal forecast systems. For instance, GEFSv12 reproduces reanalysis relationships between polar vortex strength and the Northern Annular Mode in the troposphere. It also exhibits enhanced weeks 3–5 prediction skill of the North Atlantic Oscillation index when initialized during strong and weak polar vortex states compared to neutral states. Furthermore, GEFSv12 shows significant differences in Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) amplitudes and enhanced MJO predictive skill in week 4 during easterly versus westerly QBO phases, though these results are sensitive to the level used to define the QBO. Our results provide a baseline from which future GEFS updates may be measured.

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