On the Control of the Residual Circulation and Stratospheric Temperatures in the Arctic by Planetary Wave Coupling

Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Perlwitz, Judith

It is well established that interannual variability of eddy (meridional) heat flux near the tropopause controls the variability of Arctic lower-stratospheric temperatures during spring via a modification of the strength of the residual circulation. While most studies focus on the role of anomalous heat flux values, here the impact of total (climatology plus anomaly) negative heat flux events on the Arctic stratosphere is investigated. Utilizing the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset, it is found that total negative heat flux events coincide with a transient reversal of the residual circulation and cooling of the Arctic lower stratosphere. The negative events weaken the seasonally averaged adiabatic warming.
The analysis provides a new interpretation of the winters of 1997 and 2011, which are known to have the lowest March Arctic lower-stratospheric temperatures in the satellite era. While most winters involve positive and negative heat flux extremes, the winters of 1997 and 2011 are unique in that they only involved extreme negative events. This behavior contributed to the weakest adiabatic downwelling in the satellite era and suggests a dynamical contribution to the extremely low temperatures during those winters that could not be accounted for by diabatic processes alone. While it is well established that dynamical processes contribute to the occurrence of stratospheric sudden warming events via extreme positive heat flux events, the results show that dynamical processes also contribute to cold winters with subsequent impact on Arctic ozone loss. The results highlight the importance of interpreting stratospheric temperatures in the Arctic in the context of the dynamical regime with which they are associated.


Also Published In

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
American Meteorological Society
Published Here
March 28, 2014