skip to main content

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

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.

« less
Authors:
 ;  
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10116826
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Volume:
32
Issue:
15
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 4753-4766
ISSN:
0894-8755
Publisher:
American Meteorological Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The atmospheric response to Arctic sea ice loss remains a subject of much debate. Most studies have focused on the sea ice retreat in the Barents-Kara Seas and its troposphere-stratosphere influence. Here, we investigate the impact of large sea ice loss over the Chukchi-Bering Seas on the sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) phenomenon during the easterly phase of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation through idealized large-ensemble experiments based on a global atmospheric model with a well-resolved stratosphere. Although culminating in autumn, the prescribed sea ice loss induces near-surface warming that persists into winter and deepens as the SSW develops. The resulting temperature contrasts foster a deep cyclonic circulation over the North Pacific, which elicits a strong upward wavenumber-2 activity into the stratosphere, reinforcing the climatological planetary wave pattern. While not affecting the SSW occurrence frequency, the amplified wave forcing in the stratosphere significantly increases the SSW duration and intensity, enhancing cold air outbreaks over the continents afterward.

  2. Abstract

    Subseasonal weather prediction can reduce economic disruption and loss of life, especially during “windows of opportunity” when noteworthy events in the Earth system are followed by characteristic weather patterns. Sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs), breakdowns of the winter stratospheric polar vortex, are one such event. They often precede warm temperatures in Northern Canada and cold, stormy weather throughout Europe and the United States - including the most recent SSW on January 5th, 2021. Here we assess the drivers of surface weather in the weeks following the SSW through initial condition “scrambling” experiments using the real-time CESM2(WACCM6) Earth system prediction framework. We find that the SSW itself had a limited impact, and that stratospheric polar vortex stretching and wave reflection had no discernible contribution to the record cold in North America in February. Instead, the tropospheric circulation and bidirectional coupling between the troposphere and stratosphere were dominant contributors to variability.

  3. Abstract This study offers an overview of the low-frequency (i.e., monthly to seasonal) evolution, dynamics, predictability, and surface impacts of a rare Southern Hemisphere (SH) stratospheric warming that occurred in austral spring 2019. Between late August and mid-September 2019, the stratospheric circumpolar westerly jet weakened rapidly, and Antarctic stratospheric temperatures rose dramatically. The deceleration of the vortex at 10 hPa was as drastic as that of the first-ever-observed major sudden stratospheric warming in the SH during 2002, while the mean Antarctic warming over the course of spring 2019 broke the previous record of 2002 by ∼50% in the midstratosphere. This event was preceded by a poleward shift of the SH polar night jet in the uppermost stratosphere in early winter, which was then followed by record-strong planetary wave-1 activity propagating upward from the troposphere in August that acted to dramatically weaken the polar vortex throughout the depth of the stratosphere. The weakened vortex winds and elevated temperatures moved downward to the surface from mid-October to December, promoting a record strong swing of the southern annular mode (SAM) to its negative phase. This record-negative SAM appeared to be a primary driver of the extreme hot and dry conditions over subtropical easternmore »Australia that accompanied the severe wildfires that occurred in late spring 2019. State-of-the-art dynamical seasonal forecast systems skillfully predicted the significant vortex weakening of spring 2019 and subsequent development of negative SAM from as early as late July.« less
  4. 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.
  5. Abstract

    In theoretical models of tropical dynamics, the effects of both surface friction and upward wave radiation through interaction with the stratosphere are oft-ignored, as they greatly complicate mathematical analysis. In this study, we relax the rigid-lid assumption and impose surface drag, which allows the barotropic mode to be excited in equatorial waves. In particular, a previously developed set of linear, strict quasi-equilibrium tropospheric equations is coupled with a dry, passive stratosphere, and surface drag is added to the troposphere momentum equations. Theoretical and numerical model analysis is performed on the model in the limits of an inviscid surface coupled to a stratosphere, as well as a frictional surface under a rigid lid. This study confirms and extends previous research that shows the presence of a stratosphere strongly shifts the growth rates of fast-propagating equatorial waves to larger scales, reddening the equatorial power spectrum. The growth rates of modes that are slowly propagating and highly interactive with cloud radiation are shown to be negligibly affected by the presence of a stratosphere. Surface friction in this model framework acts as purely a damping mechanism and couples the baroclinic mode to the barotropic mode, increasing the poleward extent of the equatorial waves.more »Numerical solutions of the coupled troposphere–stratosphere model with surface friction show that the stratosphere stratification controls the extent of tropospheric trapping of the barotropic mode, and thus the poleward extent of the wave. The superposition of phase-shifted barotropic and first baroclinic modes is also shown to lead to an eastward vertical tilt in the dynamical fields of Kelvin wave–like modes.

    « less