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Title: Surface Control of the Frequency of Stratospheric Sudden Warming Events

The frequency of stratospheric sudden warming events (SSWs) is an important characteristic of the coupled stratosphere–troposphere system. However, many modern climate models are unable to reproduce the observed SSW frequency. A previous study suggested that one of the reasons could be the momentum damping at the surface. The goal of the present study is to understand what determines the climatological SSW frequency and how the surface damping comes into play. To this end, we conduct a parameter sweep with an idealized model, using a wide range of values for the surface damping. It is found that the SSW frequency is a strong and nonlinear function of the surface damping. Various tropospheric and stratospheric factors are identified to link the surface damping to the SSW frequency. The factors include the magnitude of the surface winds, the meridional and vertical wind shear, the synoptic eddy activity in the troposphere, the transient wave activity flux at the lower stratosphere, and the strength of the stratospheric polar vortex. Mathematical–statistical modeling, informed by the parameter sweep, is used to quantify how the different factors relate to each other. This successfully reproduces the complex variations of the SSW frequency with the surface damping seen in more » the parameter sweep. The results may help in explaining some of the difficulties that climate models have in simulating the observed SSW frequency.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 4753-4766
American Meteorological Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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