On the tropospheric response to transient stratospheric momentum torques

Ian P. White*, Chaim I. Garfinkel, Peter Hitchcock

*Corresponding author for this work

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2 Scopus citations


An idealised model is used to examine the tropospheric response to sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs), by imposing transient stratospheric momentum torques tailored to mimic the wave-forcing impulse associated with spontaneously-occurring SSWs. Such an approach enables us to examine both the ∼2-3-week forcing stage of an SSW during which there is anomalous stratospheric wave-activity convergence, as well as the recovery stage during which the wave forcing abates and the stratosphere radiatively recovers over 2-3 months. It is argued that applying a torque is better suited than a heating perturbation for examining the response to SSWs, due to the meridional circulation that is induced to maintain thermal-wind balance (i.e., the ‘Eliassen adjustment’); an easterly torque yields downwelling at high latitudes and equatorward flow below, similar to the wave-induced circulation that occurs during spontaneously-occurring SSWs, whereas a heating perturbation yields qualitatively opposite behavior and thus cannot capture the initial SSW evolution. During the forcing stage, the meridional circulation in response to an impulse comparable to the model’s internal variability is able to penetrate down to the surface and drive easterly-wind anomalies via Coriolis torques acting on the anomalous equatorward flow. During the recovery stage, after which the tropospheric flow has already responded, the meridional circulation associated with the stratosphere’s radiative recovery provides the persistent stratospheric forcing that drives the high-latitude easterly anomalies, which is then augmented by synoptic-wave feedbacks that drive and amplify the annular-mode response. In comparison, planetary waves are found to play a relatively small role.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournals of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022

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