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Transport in the low-latitude tropopause zone diagnosed using particle trajectories

Jackson, D. R., Methven, J. ORCID: and Pope, V. D. (2001) Transport in the low-latitude tropopause zone diagnosed using particle trajectories. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 58 (2). pp. 173-192. ISSN 1520-0469

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(2001)058<0173:TITLLT>2.0.CO;2


Recent literature has described a “transition zone” between the average top of deep convection in the Tropics and the stratosphere. Here transport across this zone is investigated using an offline trajectory model. Particles were advected by the resolved winds from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses. For each boreal winter clusters of particles were released in the upper troposphere over the four main regions of tropical deep convection (Indonesia, central Pacific, South America, and Africa). Most particles remain in the troposphere, descending on average for every cluster. The horizontal components of 5-day trajectories are strongly influenced by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), but the Lagrangian average descent does not have a clear ENSO signature. Tropopause crossing locations are first identified by recording events when trajectories from the same release regions cross the World Meteorological Organization lapse rate tropopause. Most crossing events occur 5–15 days after release, and 30-day trajectories are sufficiently long to estimate crossing number densities. In a further two experiments slight excursions across the lapse rate tropopause are differentiated from the drift deeper into the stratosphere by defining the “tropopause zone” as a layer bounded by the average potential temperature of the lapse rate tropopause and the profile temperature minimum. Transport upward across this zone is studied using forward trajectories released from the lower bound and back trajectories arriving at the upper bound. Histograms of particle potential temperature (θ) show marked differences between the transition zone, where there is a slow spread in θ values about a peak that shifts slowly upward, and the troposphere below 350 K. There forward trajectories experience slow radiative cooling interspersed with bursts of convective heating resulting in a well-mixed distribution. In contrast θ histograms for back trajectories arriving in the stratosphere have two distinct peaks just above 300 and 350 K, indicating the sharp change from rapid convective heating in the well-mixed troposphere to slow ascent in the transition zone. Although trajectories slowly cross the tropopause zone throughout the Tropics, all three experiments show that most trajectories reaching the stratosphere from the lower troposphere within 30 days do so over the west Pacific warm pool. This preferred location moves about 30°–50° farther east in an El Niño year (1982/83) and about 30° farther west in a La Niña year (1988/89). These results could have important implications for upper-troposphere–lower-stratosphere pollution and chemistry studies.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:17681
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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