skip to main content

Title: Tropospheric and Stratospheric Causal Pathways Between the MJO and NAO

Previous work has shown that the Madden‐Julian Oscillation (MJO) can influence the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) via a Rossby wave teleconnection that propagates through the troposphere (i.e., a tropospheric pathway). In addition, recent work suggests that the MJO can influence the stratospheric polar vortex, which is also known to influence the tropospheric NAO—thus, there likely exists a stratospheric pathway for MJO influence as well. Here, we apply two methods to shed more light on the pathways linking the MJO to the NAO. First, we use a traditional approach in climate science based on analyzing conditional probabilities. Second, we use methods from causal discovery theory based on probabilistic graphical models. Together, these two analysis approaches reveal that the MJO can impact the NAO via both a tropospheric and stratospheric pathway. The stratospheric pathway is shown to come about in two ways: First, both methods show that the MJO itself influences the strength of the stratospheric polar vortex on a timescale of ∼10 days, and then 5 days later the vortex can drive changes in the NAO. Second, the state of the stratospheric polar vortex acts to condition the NAO to be conducive (or not) to MJO influence. When the vortex is in a state that opposes the expected NAO response to the MJO, we find little influence of the MJO on the NAO, however, when the vortex supports the expected NAO response, the NAO is up to 30% more likely to be in a particular state following active MJO periods.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 9356-9371
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    While the Madden‐Julian oscillation (MJO) is known to influence the midlatitude circulation and its predictability on subseasonal‐to‐seasonal timescales, little is known how this connection may change with anthropogenic warming. This study investigates changes in the causal pathways between the MJO and the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) within historical and SSP585 simulations of the Community Earth System Model 2‐Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (CESM2‐WACCM) coupled climate model. Two data‐driven approaches are employed, namely, the STRIPES index and graphical causal models. These approaches collectively indicate that the MJO's influence on the North Atlantic strengthens in the future, consistent with an extended jet‐stream. In addition, the graphical causal models allow us to distinguish the causal pathways associated with the teleconnections. While both a stratospheric and tropospheric pathway connect the MJO to the North Atlantic in CESM2‐WACCM, the strengthening of the MJO‐NAO causal connection over the 21st century is shown to be due exclusively to teleconnections via the tropospheric pathway.

    more » « less
  2. This study examines the Northern Hemisphere midlatitude circulation response to Arctic amplification (AA) in a simple atmospheric general circulation model. It is found that, in response to AA, the tropospheric jet shifts equatorward and the stratospheric polar vortex weakens, robustly for various AA forcing strengths. Despite this, no statistically significant change in the frequency of sudden stratospheric warming events is identified. In addition, in order to quantitatively assess the role of stratosphere–troposphere coupling, the tropospheric pathway is isolated by nudging the stratospheric zonal mean state toward the reference state. When the nudging is applied, rendering the stratosphere inactive, the tropospheric jet still shifts equatorward but by approximately half the magnitude compared to that of an active stratosphere. The difference represents the stratospheric pathway and the downward influence of the stratosphere on the troposphere. This suggests that stratosphere–troposphere coupling plays a nonnegligible role in establishing the midlatitude circulation response to AA. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The joint influence of the stratospheric quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO) and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the polar vortex, subtropical westerly jets (STJs), and wave patterns during boreal winter is investigated in 40 years (1979–2018) of monthly mean ERA‐Interim reanalyses. The method of Wallace et al. (1993),<1751:ROTESQ>2.0.CO;2is used to conduct a QBO phase angle sweep. QBO westerly (W) and easterly (E) composites are then segregated by the phase of ENSO. Two pathways are described by which the QBO mean meridional circulation (MMC) influences the northern winter hemisphere. The “stratospheric pathway” modulates stratospheric planetary wave absorption via the Holton‐Tan mechanism. The “tropospheric pathway” modulates the tropical and subtropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. QBO MMC anomalies exhibit a checkerboard pattern in temperature and arched structures in zonal wind which extend into midlatitudes, and are stronger on the winter side. During QBO W, the polar vortex and STJs are enhanced. QBO signals in the polar vortex are amplified during La Niña. During El Niño and QBO W, the strongest STJs occur, and a warm pole/wave two pattern is found. During El Niño and QBO E, a trough is found over Eurasia and a ridge over the North Atlantic, in a wave one pattern. El Niño diminishes QBO anomalies in the tropical stratosphere and reduces the poleward extent and amplitude of the QBO MMC, thereby influencing the stratospheric pathway. Effects on the boreal winter hemisphere are attributed to the combined influence of the QBO and ENSO via both pathways.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The Arctic stratospheric polar vortex is an important driver of winter weather and climate variability and predictability in North America and Eurasia, with a downward influence that on average projects onto the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). While tropospheric circulation anomalies accompanying anomalous vortex states display substantial case‐by‐case variability, understanding the full diversity of the surface signatures requires larger sample sizes than those available from reanalyses. Here, we first show that a large ensemble of seasonal hindcasts realistically reproduces the observed average surface signatures for weak and strong vortex winters and produces sufficient spread for single ensemble members to be considered as alternative realizations. We then use the ensemble to analyze the diversity of surface signatures during weak and strong vortex winters. Over Eurasia, relatively few weak vortex winters are associated with large‐scale cold conditions, suggesting that the strength of the observed cold signature could be inflated due to insufficient sampling. For both weak and strong vortex winters, the canonical temperature pattern in Eurasia only clearly arises when North Atlantic sea surface temperatures are in phase with the NAO. Over North America, while the main driver of interannual winter temperature variability is the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the stratosphere can modulate ENSO teleconnections, affecting temperature and circulation anomalies over North America and downstream. These findings confirm that anomalous vortex states are associated with a broad spectrum of surface climate anomalies on the seasonal scale, which may not be fully captured by the small observational sample size.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Recent observations have indicated significant modulation of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) by the phase of the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) during boreal winter. Composites of the MJO show that upper-tropospheric ice cloud fraction and water vapor anomalies are generally collocated, and that an eastward tilt with height in cloud fraction exists. Through radiative transfer calculations, it is shown that ice clouds have a stronger tropospheric radiative forcing than do water vapor anomalies, highlighting the importance of incorporating upper-tropospheric–lower-stratospheric processes into simple models of the MJO. The coupled troposphere–stratosphere linear model previously developed by the authors is extended by including a mean wind in the stratosphere and a prognostic equation for cirrus clouds, which are forced dynamically and allowed to modulate tropospheric radiative cooling, similar to the effect of tropospheric water vapor in previous formulations. Under these modifications, the model still produces a slow, eastward-propagating mode that resembles the MJO. The sign of zonal mean wind in the stratosphere is shown to control both the upward wave propagation and tropospheric vertical structure of the mode. Under varying stratospheric wind and interactive cirrus cloud radiation, the MJO-like mode has weaker growth rates under stratospheric westerlies than easterlies, consistent with the observed MJO–QBO relationship. These results are directly attributable to an enhanced barotropic mode under QBO easterlies. It is also shown that differential zonal advection of cirrus clouds leads to weaker growth rates under stratospheric westerlies than easterlies. Implications and limitations of the linear theory are discussed.

    Significance Statement

    Recent observations have shown that the strength of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), a global-scale envelope of wind and rain that slowly moves eastward in the tropics and dominates global-weather variations on time scales of around a month, is strongly influenced by the direction of the winds in the lower stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that lies above where weather occurs. So far, modeling studies have been unable to reproduce this connection in global climate models. The purpose of this study is to investigate the mechanisms through which the stratosphere can modulate the MJO, by using simple theoretical models. In particular, we point to the role that ice clouds high in the atmosphere play in influencing the MJO.

    more » « less