The Frequency and Dynamics of Stratospheric Sudden Warmings in the 21st Century

Charlton-Perez, A. J.; Polvani, Lorenzo M.; Austin, J.; Li, F.

Changes to stratospheric sudden warmings (SSWs) over the coming century, as predicted by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) chemistry climate model [Atmospheric Model With Transport and Chemistry (AMTRAC)], are investigated in detail. Two sets of integrations, each a three-member ensemble, are analyzed. The first set is driven with observed climate forcings between 1960 and 2004; the second is driven with climate forcings from a coupled model run, including trace gas concentrations representing a midrange estimate of future anthropogenic emissions between 1990 and 2099. A small positive trend in the frequency of SSWs is found. This trend, amounting to 1 event/decade over a century, is statistically significant at the 90% confidence level and is consistent over the two sets of model integrations. Comparison of the model SSW climatology between the late 20th and 21st centuries shows that the increase is largest toward the end of the winter season. In contrast, the dynamical properties are not significantly altered in the coming century, despite the increase in SSW frequency. Owing to the intrinsic complexity of our model, the direct cause of the predicted trend in SSW frequency remains an open question.


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Journal of Geophysical Research