CMIP5/6 models project little change in the statistical characteristics of sudden stratospheric warmings in the 21st century

Jian Rao*, Chaim I. Garfinkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Using state-of-the-art models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phases 5 and 6 (CMIP5/6), future changes of sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) events under a moderate emission scenario (RCP45/SSP245) and a strong emissions scenario (RCP85/SSP585) are evaluated with respect to the historical simulations. Changes in four characteristics of SSWs are examined in 54 models: the SSW frequency, the seasonal distribution, stratosphere-troposphere coupling, and the persistency of the distorted or displaced polar vortex. The composite results show that none of these four aspects will change robustly. An insignificant (though positive) change in the SSW frequency from historical simulations to RCP45/SSP245 and then to RCP85/SSP585 is consistently projected by CMIP5 and CMIP6 multimodel ensembles in most wintertime months (December-March). This increase in the SSW frequency is most pronounced in mid- (late-) winter in CMIP6 (CMIP5). No shift in the seasonality of SSWs is simulated especially in the CMIP6 future scenarios. Both the reanalysis and CMIP5/6 historical simulations exhibit strong stratosphere-troposphere coupling during SSWs, and the coupling strength is nearly unchanged in the future scenario simulations. The near surface responds immediately after the onset of SSWs in both historical and future scenarios experiments, denoted by the deep downward propagation of zonal-mean easterly anomalies from the stratosphere to the troposphere. On average, the composite circumpolar easterly winds persist for 8 d in the reanalysis and CMIP5/6 historical experiments, which are projected to remain unchanged in both the moderate and strong emissions scenarios, implying the lifecycle of SSWs will not change.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number034024
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd


  • CMIP5
  • CMIP6
  • Future projection
  • Sudden stratospheric warming (SSW)


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