On the Lack of Stratospheric Dynamical Variability in Low-Top
Versions of the CMIP5 Models

Charlton-Perez, Andrew J.; Baldwin, Mark P.; Birner, Thomas; Black, Robert X.; Butler, Amy H.; Calvo, Natalia; Davis, Nicholas A.; Gerber, Edwin P.; Gillett, Nathan; Hardiman, Steven; Kim, Junsu; Krüger, Kirstin; Lee, Yun-Young; Manzini, Elisa; McDaniel, Brent A.; Polvani, Lorenzo M.; Reichler, Thomas; Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Sigmond, Michael; Son, Seok-Woo; Toohey, Matthew; Wilcox, Laura; Yoden, Shigeo; Christiansen, Bo; Lott, François; Shindell, Drew; Yukimoto, Seiji; Watanabe, Shingo

We describe the main differences in simulations of stratospheric climate and variability by models within the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that have a model top above the stratopause and relatively fine stratospheric vertical resolution (high-top), and those that have a model top below the stratopause (low-top). Although the simulation of mean stratospheric climate by the two model ensembles is similar, the low-top model ensemble has very weak stratospheric variability on daily and interannual time scales. The frequency of major sudden stratospheric warming events is strongly underestimated by the low-top models with less than half the frequency of events observed in the reanalysis data and high-top models. The lack of stratospheric variability in the low-top models affects their stratosphere-troposphere coupling, resulting in short-lived anomalies in the Northern Annular Mode, which do not produce long-lasting tropospheric impacts, as seen in observations. The lack of stratospheric variability, however, does not appear to have any impact on the ability of the low-top models to reproduce past stratospheric temperature trends. We find little improvement in the simulation of decadal variability for the high-top models compared to the low-top, which is likely related to the fact that neither ensemble produces a realistic dynamical response to volcanic eruptions.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres