Connections between the spring breakup of the southern hemisphere polar vortex, stationary waves, and air-sea roughness

Chaim I. Garfinkel*, Luke D. Oman, Elizabeth A. Barnes, Darryn W. Waugh, Margaret H. Hurwitz, Andrea M. Molod

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A robust connection between the drag on surface-layer winds and the stratospheric circulation is demonstrated in NASA's Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry-Climate Model (GEOSCCM). Specifically, an updated parameterization of roughness at the air-sea interface, in which surface roughness is increased for moderate wind speeds (4-20ms-1), leads to a decrease in model biases in Southern Hemispheric ozone, polar cap temperature, stationary wave heat flux, and springtime vortex breakup. A dynamical mechanism is proposed whereby increased surface roughness leads to improved stationary waves. Increased surface roughness leads to anomalous eddy momentum flux convergence primarily in the Indian Ocean sector (where eddies are strongest climatologically) in September and October. The localization of the eddy momentum flux convergence anomaly in the Indian Ocean sector leads to a zonally asymmetric reduction in zonal wind and, by geostrophy, to a wavenumber-1 stationary wave pattern. This tropospheric stationary wave pattern leads to enhanced upward wave activity entering the stratosphere. The net effect is an improved Southern Hemisphere vortex: the vortex breaks up earlier in spring (i.e., the spring late-breakup bias is partially ameliorated) yet is no weaker in midwinter. More than half of the stratospheric biases appear to be related to the surface wind speed biases. As many other chemistry-climate models use a similar scheme for their surface-layer momentum exchange and have similar biases in the stratosphere, the authors expect that results from GEOSCCM may be relevant for other climate models.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2137-2151
Number of pages15
JournalJournals of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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