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The role of the timing of Sudden Stratospheric Warmings for precipitation and temperature anomalies in Europe

Monnin, E., Kretschmer, M. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2756-9526 and Polichtchouk, I. (2021) The role of the timing of Sudden Stratospheric Warmings for precipitation and temperature anomalies in Europe. International Journal of Climatology. ISSN 0899-8418

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/joc.7426

Abstract/Summary

The Northern Hemisphere stratospheric polar vortex (SPV), a band of fast westerly winds over the pole extending from approximately 10 to 50 km altitude, is a key driver of European winter weather. Extremely weak polar vortex states, so called sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs), are on average followed by dry and cold weather in Northern Europe, as well as wetter weather in Southern Europe. However, the surface response of SSWs varies greatly between events, and it is not well understood which factors modulate this difference. Here we address the role of the timing of SSWs within the cold season (December to March) for the temperature and precipitation response in Europe. Given the limited sample size of SSWs in the observations, hindcasts of the seasonal forecasting model SEAS5 from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) are analysed. Firste evaluate key characteristics of stratosphere-troposphere coupling in SEAS5 against reanalysis data and find them to be reasonably well captured by the model, justifying our approach. We then show that in SEAS5, early winter (December and January) SSWs are followed by more pronounced surface impacts compared to late winter (February and March) SSWs. For example, in Scotland the low precipitation anomalies are roughly twice as severe after early winter SSWs than after late winter SSWs. The difference in the response cannot be explained by more downward propagating SSWs in early winter, or by different monthly precipitation climatologies. Instead, we demonstrate that the differences result from stronger SPV anomalies associated with early winter SSWs. This is a statistical artefact introduced through the commonly used SSW event definition, which involves an absolute threshold, and therefore leads to stronger SPV anomalies during early winter SSWs when the stratospheric mean state is stronger. Our study highlights the sensitivity of surface impacts to SSW event definition.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:101090
Publisher:John Wiley & Sons

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