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Lesley J. Gray and Sarah Ruth

Abstract

A simulation of precise years of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) is achieved in a two-dimensional model by relaxing the modeled equatorial winds in the lower stratosphere toward radiosonde observations. The model has been run for the period 1971–90. A QBO signal in column ozone is produced in the model that agrees reasonably well with observational data from the BUV, TOMS, and SAGE II satellite datasets. The model results confirm previous indications of the importance of the interaction of the QBO with the annual cycle in the determination of the subtropical ozone anomaly. The low-frequency modulation of the subtropical ozone anomaly is now particularly clear.

The low-frequency modulation of the subtropical ozone anomaly in the model arises as a result of the interaction of the QBO with the annual cycle in the vertical advection by the Hadley circulation. The possibility of a further, similar modulation arising from the interaction of the equatorial wind QBO and the annual cycle in midlatitude eddy activity is discussed, with particular emphasis on the implications for the eddy transfer of ozone to high latitudes and on the ability to predict the severity of the Antarctic ozone hole. A link is proposed between the QBO signal in the severity of the Antarctic ozone hole and the amount of ozone observed in the subtropical/midlatitude springtime maximum in the Southern Hemisphere. On the basis of this relationship, the reliability of the model as a predictor of the severity of the ozone hole is explored. A conclusion of the study is that a reliable predictor of the severity of the ozone hole must take into account the timing of the descent of the equatorial wind QBO at the equator with respect to the annual cycle and that the use, as in previous studies, of a single parameter, such as the sign of the 50-mb equatorial wind, will not be entirely reliable because it cannot do this.

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Lesley J. Gray and Timothy J. Dunkerton

Abstract

Satellite and station data have shown that the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in total column ozone is asymmetric about the equator, unlike the zonal wind oscillation. There is an asymmetry in phase, as subtropical ozone anomalies maximize in the winter–spring season in both hemispheres, showing strong synchronization with the seasonal cycle irrespective of the phase of the equatorial QBO. There is also an asymmetry in amplitude, which we suggest is due to the timing of the equatorial QBO relative to the seasonal cycle and possible seasonal variation of the Hadley circulation. These asymmetries change with time as the phase relationship between the equatorial QBO and seasonal cycle changes, producing a slow modulation of the subtropical ozone QBO.

Numerical simulations of the ozone QBO with a two-dimensional radiative–dynamical–photochemical model successfully reproduce these features of the ozone QBO and show that mean motions near the base of the equatorial stratosphere are largely responsible for the asymmetry of the oscillation. The column oscillation is a complex superposition of number densities at various levels due to phase descent of the dynamical QBO and strong spatial gradients in the strength and direction of the Hadley circulation. The role of ozone photochemistry is also discussed, and comparison is made to the simulated quasi-biennial oscillation of NOy.

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Simon A. Crooks and Lesley J. Gray

Abstract

A multiple linear regression analysis of the ERA-40 dataset for the period 1979–2001 has been used to study the influence of the 11-yr solar cycle on atmospheric temperature and zonal winds. Volcanic, North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), ENSO, and quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) signatures are also presented. The solar signal is shown to be readily distinguishable from the volcanic signal. The main solar signal is a statistically significant positive response (i.e., warmer in solar maximum) of 1.75 K over the equator with peak values at 43 km and a reversed signal of similar magnitude at high latitudes that is seasonally dependent. Consistent with this is a statistically significant zonal wind response of up to 6 m s−1 in the subtropical upper stratosphere/lower mesosphere that is also seasonally dependent. The wind anomalies are westerly/easterly in solar maximum/minimum. In addition, there is a statistically significant temperature response in the subtropical lower stratosphere that shows similarity in spatial structure to the QBO response, suggesting a possible interaction between the solar and QBO signals in this region. The solar response in tropospheric zonal winds is small but significant, confirming previous studies that indicate a possible modulation of the Hadley circulation.

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Thomas H. A. Frame and Lesley J. Gray

Abstract

Multiple linear regression is used to diagnose the signal of the 11-yr solar cycle in zonal-mean zonal wind and temperature in the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) dataset. The results of previous studies are extended to 2008 using data from ECMWF operational analyses. This analysis confirms that the solar signal found in previous studies is distinct from that of volcanic aerosol forcing resulting from the eruptions of El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo, but it highlights the potential for confusion of the solar signal and lower-stratospheric temperature trends. A correction to an error that is present in previous results of Crooks and Gray, stemming from the use of a single daily analysis field rather than monthly averaged data, is also presented.

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Peter A. G. Watson and Lesley J. Gray

Abstract

The stratospheric polar vortex is weaker in the easterly phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO-E) than in the westerly phase (QBO-W), but the mechanism behind the QBO's influence is not well understood. The composite difference of the atmospheric state between QBO-E and QBO-W is found to closely resemble the structure of the northern annular mode, the leading empirical orthogonal function of stratospheric variability, including its wave components. Studies of dynamical systems indicate that many different forcings could give rise to this response, and therefore this composite difference does not provide much information about the forcing mechanism. It is argued that the full transient response of a system to an applied forcing is likely to be much more informative about the dynamics of the forcing mechanism, especially the response on time scales shorter than the dynamical time scale, which is about a week for vortex variability. It is shown that the transient response of the vortex to forcing by the QBO in a general circulation model is consistent with the proposed mechanism of Holton and Tan, indicating that this mechanism has a role in the QBO modulation of vortex strength, in contrast to the conclusions of several recent studies. This novel approach of examining the transient response to a forcing on short time scales may be useful in various other outstanding problems.

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Daniel M. Mitchell, Andrew J. Charlton-Perez, and Lesley J. Gray

Abstract

The mean state, variability, and extreme variability of the stratospheric polar vortices, with an emphasis on the Northern Hemisphere (NH) vortex, are examined using two-dimensional moment analysis and extreme value theory (EVT). The use of moments as an analysis tool gives rise to information about the vortex area, centroid latitude, aspect ratio, and kurtosis. The application of EVT to these moment-derived quantities allows the extreme variability of the vortex to be assessed. The data used for this study are 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) potential vorticity fields on interpolated isentropic surfaces that range from 450 to 1450 K.

Analyses show that the most extreme vortex variability occurs most commonly in late January and early February, consistent with when most planetary wave driving from the troposphere is observed. Composites around sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) events reveal that the moment diagnostics evolve in statistically different ways between vortex splitting events and vortex displacement events, in contrast to the traditional diagnostics. Histograms of the vortex diagnostics on the 850-K (~10 hPa) surface over the 1958–2001 period are fitted with parametric distributions and show that SSW events constitute the majority of data in the tails of the distributions. The distribution of each diagnostic is computed on various surfaces throughout the depth of the stratosphere; it shows that in general the vortex becomes more circular with higher filamentation at the upper levels. The Northern and Southern Hemisphere (SH) vortices are also compared through the analysis of their respective vortex diagnostics, confirming that the SH vortex is less variable and lacks extreme events compared to the NH vortex. Finally, extreme value theory is used to statistically model the vortex diagnostics and make inferences about the underlying dynamics of the polar vortices.

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Scott M. Osprey, Lesley J. Gray, Steven C. Hardiman, Neal Butchart, and Tim J. Hinton

Abstract

An examination is made of stratospheric climate, circulation, and variability in configurations of the Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model version 2 (HadGEM2) differing only in stratospheric resolution and the placement of the model lid. This is made in the context of historical reconstructions of twentieth-century climate. A reduction in the westerly bias in the Northern Hemisphere polar night jet is found in the high-top model. The authors also find significant differences in the expression of tropical stratospheric variability, finding improvements in the high-top model for the presence of the quasi-biennial oscillation, for tropical upwelling consistent with interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data, and for interannual changes in stratospheric water vapor concentration comparable to satellite observations. Further differences are seen at high latitudes during winter in the frequency of occurrence of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs). The occurrence rate of SSWs in the high-top simulations, (7.2 ± 0.5) decade−1, is statistically consistent with observations, (6.0 ± 1.0) decade−1, whereas they are one-third as frequent in the low-top simulations, (2.5 ± 0.5) decade−1. Furthermore, the structure of the timing of winter final warmings is only captured in the high-top model. A similar characterization for the time evolution of the width of the tropical upper troposphere is found between model configurations. It is concluded that an adequate representation of the stratosphere is required to capture the important modes of tropical and extratropical stratospheric variability in models.

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Hua Lu, Lesley J. Gray, Ian P. White, and Thomas J. Bracegirdle

Abstract

Breaking planetary waves (BPWs) affect stratospheric dynamics by reshaping the waveguides, causing internal wave reflection, and preconditioning sudden stratospheric warmings. This study examines observed changes in BPWs during the northern winter resulting from enhanced solar forcing and the consequent effect on the seasonal development of the polar vortex. During the period 1979–2014, solar-induced changes in BPWs were first observed in the uppermost stratosphere. High solar forcing was marked by sharpening of the potential vorticity (PV) gradient at 30°–45°N, enhanced wave absorption at high latitudes, and a reduced PV gradient between these regions. These anomalies instigated an equatorward shift of the upper-stratospheric waveguide and enhanced downward wave reflection at high latitudes. The equatorward refraction of reflected waves from the polar upper stratosphere then led to enhanced wave absorption at 35°–45°N and 7–20 hPa, indicative of a widening of the midstratospheric surf zone. The stratospheric waveguide was thus constricted at about 45°–60°N and 5–10 hPa in early boreal winter; reduced upward wave propagation through this region resulted in a stronger upper-stratospheric westerly jet. From January, the regions with enhanced BPWs acted as “barriers” for subsequent upward and equatorward wave propagation. As the waves were trapped within the stratosphere, anomalies of zonal wavenumbers 2 and 3 were reflected poleward from the stratospheric surf zone. Resonant excitation of some of these reflected waves resulted in rapid growth of wave disturbances and a more disturbed polar vortex in late winter. These results provide a process-oriented explanation for the observed solar cycle signal. They also highlight the importance of nonlinearity in the processes that drive the stratospheric response to external forcing.

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Hua Lu, Adam A. Scaife, Gareth J. Marshall, John Turner, and Lesley J. Gray

Abstract

The effects of solar activity on the stratospheric waveguides and downward reflection of planetary waves during NH early to midwinter are examined. Under high solar (HS) conditions, enhanced westerly winds in the subtropical upper stratosphere and the associated changes in the zonal wind curvature led to an altered waveguide geometry across the winter period in the upper stratosphere. In particular, the condition for barotropic instability was more frequently met at 1 hPa near the polar-night jet centered at about 55°N. In early winter, the corresponding change in wave forcing was characterized by a vertical dipole pattern of the Eliassen–Palm (E–P) flux divergent anomalies in the high-latitude upper stratosphere accompanied by poleward E–P flux anomalies. These wave forcing anomalies corresponded with negative vertical shear of zonal mean winds and the formation of a vertical reflecting surface. Enhanced downward E–P flux anomalies appeared below the negative shear zone; they coincided with more frequent occurrence of negative daily heat fluxes and were associated with eastward acceleration and downward group velocity. These downward-reflected wave anomalies had a detectable effect on the vertical structure of planetary waves during November–January. The associated changes in tropospheric geopotential height contributed to a more positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation in January and February. These results suggest that downward reflection may act as a “top down” pathway by which the effects of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the upper stratosphere can be transmitted to the troposphere.

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Daniel M. Mitchell, Lesley J. Gray, James Anstey, Mark P. Baldwin, and Andrew J. Charlton-Perez

Abstract

A strong link exists between stratospheric variability and anomalous weather patterns at the earth’s surface. Specifically, during extreme variability of the Arctic polar vortex termed a “weak vortex event,” anomalies can descend from the upper stratosphere to the surface on time scales of weeks. Subsequently the outbreak of cold-air events have been noted in high northern latitudes, as well as a quadrupole pattern in surface temperature over the Atlantic and western European sectors, but it is currently not understood why certain events descend to the surface while others do not. This study compares a new classification technique of weak vortex events, based on the distribution of potential vorticity, with that of an existing technique and demonstrates that the subdivision of such events into vortex displacements and vortex splits has important implications for tropospheric weather patterns on weekly to monthly time scales. Using reanalysis data it is found that vortex splitting events are correlated with surface weather and lead to positive temperature anomalies over eastern North America of more than 1.5 K, and negative anomalies over Eurasia of up to −3 K. Associated with this is an increase in high-latitude blocking in both the Atlantic and Pacific sectors and a decrease in European blocking. The corresponding signals are weaker during displacement events, although ultimately they are shown to be related to cold-air outbreaks over North America. Because of the importance of stratosphere–troposphere coupling for seasonal climate predictability, identifying the type of stratospheric variability in order to capture the correct surface response will be necessary.

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