Time-varying changes in the simulated structure of the Brewer-Dobson Circulation

Chaim I. Garfinkel*, Valentina Aquila, Darryn W. Waugh, Luke D. Oman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A series of simulations using the NASA Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry Climate Model are analyzed in order to assess changes in the Brewer-Dobson Circulation (BDC) over the past 55 years. When trends are computed over the past 55 years, the BDC accelerates throughout the stratosphere, consistent with previous modeling results. However, over the second half of the simulations (i.e., since the late 1980s), the model simulates structural changes in the BDC as the temporal evolution of the BDC varies between regions in the stratosphere. In the mid-stratosphere in the midlatitude Northern Hemisphere, the BDC does not accelerate in the ensemble mean of our simulations despite increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and warming sea surface temperatures, and it even decelerates in one ensemble member. This deceleration is reminiscent of changes inferred from satellite instruments and in situ measurements. In contrast, the BDC in the lower stratosphere continues to accelerate. The main forcing agents for the recent slowdown in the mid-stratosphere appear to be declining ozone-depleting substance (ODS) concentrations and the timing of volcanic eruptions. Changes in both mean age of air and the tropical upwelling of the residual circulation indicate a lack of recent acceleration. We therefore clarify that the statement that is often made that climate models simulate a decreasing age throughout the stratosphere only applies over long time periods and is not necessarily the case for the past 25 years, when most tracer measurements were taken.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1313-1327
Number of pages15
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 Jan 2017

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© Author(s) 2017.


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