Mechanisms of influence of the semi-annual oscillation on stratospheric sudden warmings

The influence of the Semi-Annual Oscillation (SAO) on the timing and evolution of major sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) is examined using the 2008/9 SSW as the primary case study. When the zonal winds in both the troposphere and the SAO region of the equatorial upper stratosphere / lower mesosphere are relaxed towards reanalysis fields in the UK Met Office Unified Model a remarkably accurate representation of the January 2009 SSW is achieved. The accurate timing of the SSW is determined by the SAO zonal wind relaxation. The westerly to easterly phase transition of the SAO in the lower mesosphere (0.1-0.5 hPa) is found to be a key factor for this influence. It defines an initial conical-shaped vortex that determines the upward propagation of wave activity and subsequent evolution of wave mean-flow interaction. Internal transient wave reflection in the subtropics and associated wave-induced acceleration of the mean-flow is found to be an important component, strengthening the vortex and thus delaying the onset of the SSW. The sensitivity of SSW timing to the equatorial westerly winds in the lower mesosphere is further explored in the context of all major SSWs during the 1979-2018 period. The timing of SSWs is found to be significantly correlated with the timing of the equinoctial westerly-to-easterly phase transition at 0.3 hPa in early winter (r = 0.79). This relationship is discussed in the context of the more widely recognised influence of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). These results suggest that accurate simulation of the timing of SAO phase transitions, as well as knowledge of the QBO phase, is likely to provide additional and extended Northern Hemisphere winter-time seasonal forecast skill.


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Authors: Gray, Lesley J., Lu, Hua ORCIDORCID record for Hua Lu, Brown, Matthew J., Knight, Jeff, Andrews, Martin

On this site: Hua Lu
1 April, 2022
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society / 148
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