Sudden stratospheric warmings as noise-induced transitions
Birner, T. and Williams, P. D. (2008) Sudden stratospheric warmings as noise-induced transitions. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 65 (10). pp. 3337-3343. ISSN 1520-0469
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/2008JAS2770.1
Sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) are usually considered to be initiated by planetary wave activity. Here it is asked whether small-scale variability (e.g., related to gravity waves) can lead to SSWs given a certain amount of planetary wave activity that is by itself not sufficient to cause a SSW. A highly vertically truncated version of the Holton–Mass model of stratospheric wave–mean flow interaction, recently proposed by Ruzmaikin et al., is extended to include stochastic forcing. In the deterministic setting, this low-order model exhibits multiple stable equilibria corresponding to the undisturbed vortex and SSW state, respectively. Momentum forcing due to quasi-random gravity wave activity is introduced as an additive noise term in the zonal momentum equation. Two distinct approaches are pursued to study the stochastic system. First, the system, initialized at the undisturbed state, is numerically integrated many times to derive statistics of first passage times of the system undergoing a transition to the SSW state. Second, the Fokker–Planck equation corresponding to the stochastic system is solved numerically to derive the stationary probability density function of the system. Both approaches show that even small to moderate strengths of the stochastic gravity wave forcing can be sufficient to cause a SSW for cases for which the deterministic system would not have predicted a SSW.