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Stratospheric water vapour and ozone response to the quasi-biennial oscillation disruptions in 2016 and 2020

Diallo, M. A., Ploeger, F., Hegglin, M. I. ORCID:, Ern, M., Grooß, J.-U., Khaykin, S. and Riese, M. (2022) Stratospheric water vapour and ozone response to the quasi-biennial oscillation disruptions in 2016 and 2020. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 22 (21). pp. 14303-14321. ISSN 1680-7316

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/acp-22-14303-2022


The quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) is a major mode of climate variability in the tropical stratosphere with quasi-periodically descending westerly and easterly winds, modulating transport and distributions of key greenhouse gases such as water vapour and ozone. In 2016 and 2020, anomalous QBO easterlies disrupted the QBO's mean period of about 28 months previously observed. Here, we quantify the impact of these two QBO disruption events on the Brewer–Dobson circulation and respective distributions of water vapour and ozone using the ERA5 reanalysis and Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) satellite observations, respectively. In 2016, both water vapour and ozone in the lower stratosphere decreased globally during the QBO disruption event by up to about 20 %. In 2020, the lower-stratospheric ozone only weakly decreased during the QBO disruption event, by up to about 10 %, while the lower-stratospheric water vapour increased by up to about 15 %. These dissimilarities in the anomalous circulation and the related ozone response between the year 2016 and the year 2020 result from differences in the tropical upwelling and in the secondary circulation of the QBO caused by differences in anomalous planetary and gravity wave breaking in the lower stratosphere near the equatorward upper flanks of the subtropical jet. The anomalous planetary and gravity wave breaking was stronger in the lower stratosphere between the tropopause and the altitude of about 23 km during the QBO disruption events in 2016 than in 2020. However, the differences in the response of lower-stratospheric water vapour to the QBO disruption events between the year 2016 and the year 2020 are mainly due to the differences in cold-point temperatures induced by Australian wildfire, which moistened the lower stratosphere, thereby obscuring the impact of the QBO disruption event in 2020 on water vapour in the lower stratosphere. Our results highlight the need for a better understanding of the causes of the QBO disruption, their interplay with other modes of climate variability in the Indo-Pacific region, including the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), and their impacts on water vapour and ozone in the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere in the face of a changing climate.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:109700
Publisher:Copernicus Publications


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