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The response of tropospheric circulation to perturbations in lower-stratospheric temperature

Haigh, J. D., Blackburn, M. and Day, R. (2005) The response of tropospheric circulation to perturbations in lower-stratospheric temperature. Journal of Climate, 18 (17). pp. 3672-3685. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI3472.1


A multiple regression analysis of the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis dataset shows a response to increased solar activity of a weakening and poleward shift of the subtropical jets. This signal is separable from other influences, such as those of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and is very similar to that seen in previous studies using global circulation models (GCMs) of the effects of an increase in solar spectral irradiance. The response to increased stratospheric (volcanic) aerosol is found in the data to be a weakening and equatorward shift of the jets. The GCM studies of the solar influence also showed an impact on tropospheric mean meridional circulation with a weakening and expansion of the tropical Hadley cells and a poleward shift of the Ferrel cells. To understand the mechanisms whereby the changes in solar irradiance affect tropospheric winds and circulation, experiments have been carried out with a simplified global circulation model. The results show that generic heating of the lower stratosphere tends to weaken the subtropical jets and the tropospheric mean meridional circulations. The positions of the jets, and the extent of the Hadley cells, respond to the distribution of the stratospheric heating, with low-latitude heating forcing them to move poleward, and high-latitude or latitudinally uniform heating forcing them equatorward. The patterns of response are similar to those that are found to be a result of the solar or volcanic influences, respectively, in the data analysis. This demonstrates that perturbations to the heat balance of the lower stratosphere, such as those brought about by solar or volcanic activity, can produce changes in the mean tropospheric circulation, even without any direct forcing below the tropopause.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:110
Publisher:American Meteorological Society
Publisher Statement:© Copyright 2005 of the American Meteorological Society. The AMS Copyright Policy is available on the AMS web site at


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