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Theses Doctoral

The Role of Stratosphere-Troposphere Planetary Wave Coupling in Driving Variability of the North Atlantic Circulation

Dunn-Sigouin, Etienne

The wintertime North-Atlantic exhibits enhanced circulation variability relative to other areas of the globe and is a key determinant of weather and climate in the highly populated regions of Europe and Eastern North America. Previous work has linked extreme stratospheric polar vortex and planetary wave heat flux events with variability of the North-Atlantic circulation. To elucidate the role of the stratosphere in driving variability of the North-Atlantic circulation, the goal of this thesis is to clarify the relationship between extreme planetary wave heat flux and vortex events and understand the dynamical mechanisms driving extreme stratospheric planetary wave heat flux events using an idealized model.
The relationship between extreme stratospheric planetary wave heat flux and polar vortex events is clarified by comparing and contrasting their composite lifecycles using reanalysis data. Extreme negative heat flux events, defined as those less than the 5th percentile of the wintertime wave-1 distribution, involve stratospheric EP-flux divergence producing an acceleration of the vortex whereas extreme positive heat flux events, defined as those greater than the 95th percentile, involve stratospheric EP-flux convergence producing a deceleration of the vortex. Similar but smaller magnitude heat flux (22th and 78th percentile) events contribute to the development of longer-timescale vortex events. Negative heat flux events precede strong vortex events, showing that strong vortex events are true dynamical events involving wave-mean flow interaction. Conversely, positive heat flux events precede weak vortex events. The tropospheric jet shifts in the North-Atlantic that occur almost simultaneously with extreme stratospheric heat flux events are shown to be comparable if not larger than those that follow extreme vortex events for several weeks.
Next, a dry-dynamical core model is configured to capture the lifecycle of extreme positive and negative heat flux events seen in reanalysis. The events are not captured using the standard model setup with idealized wave-1 topography. A modified control simulation captures the key ingredients of the events: 1) the extremes of the stratospheric eddy heat flux distribution, 2) the cross-spectral correlation and phase between the stratosphere and troposphere, 3) the evolution of the eddy heat flux and EP-flux divergence, 4) the stratospheric evolution of the zonal-mean flow, including the NAM, NAM time-tendency, potential temperature time-tendency and stratospheric wave geometry, and 5) the tropospheric evolution, including the high-latitude wave-1 geopotential height pattern and mid-latitude jet shift. Comparison between the model and reanalysis reveals that higher-order planetary wavenumbers play a role prior to the events.
Finally, the dry-dynamical core model is used to examine the large-scale dynamical mechanisms driving extreme stratospheric negative heat flux events and their coupling with the tropospheric circulation. An ensemble spectral nudging methodology is used to isolate the role of: 1) the tropospheric wave-1 precursor, 2) the stratospheric zonal-mean flow and 3) the higher-order wavenumbers. The events are partially reproduced when nudging the wave-1 precursor and the zonal-mean flow whereas they are not reproduced when nudging either separately. In contrast, nudging the wave-1 precursor and the higher-order waves reproduces the events, including the evolution of the zonal-mean flow. Mechanism denial experiments show that the higher-order planetary wavenumbers drive the events by modifying the zonal-mean flow and through wave-wave interaction. Nudging all tropospheric wave precursors confirms they are the source of the stratospheric waves. Nudging all stratospheric waves reproduces the coupling with the tropospheric circulation. Taken together, the experiments show that extreme stratospheric negative heat flux events are consistent with downward wave coupling from the stratosphere to the troposphere.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Shaw, Tiffany A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2017