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Solar influences on dynamical coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere

Haigh, J. D. and Blackburn, M. (2006) Solar influences on dynamical coupling between the stratosphere and troposphere. Space Science Reviews, 125 (1-4). pp. 331-344. ISSN 1572-9672

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11214-006-9067-0


We use a simplified atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) to investigate the response of the lower atmosphere to thermal perturbations in the lower stratosphere. The results show that generic heating of the lower stratosphere tends to weaken the sub-tropical 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 displacing them poleward, and uniform heating displacing them equatorward. The patterns of response to the low latitude heating are similar to those found to be associated with solar variability in previous observational data analysis, and to the effects of varying solar UV radiation in sophisticated AGCMs. In order to investigate the chain of causality involved in converting the stratospheric thermal forcing to a tropospheric climate signal we conduct an experiment which uses an ensemble of model spin-ups to analyse the time development of the response to an applied stratospheric perturbation. We find that the initial effect of the change in static stability at the tropopause is to reduce the eddy momentum flux convergence in this region. This is followed by a vertical transfer of the momentum forcing anomaly by an anomalous mean circulation to the surface, where it is partly balanced by surface stress anomalies. The unbalanced part drives the evolution of the vertically integrated zonal flow. We conclude that solar heating of the stratosphere may produce changes in the circulation of the troposphere even without any direct forcing below the tropopause. We suggest that the impact of the stratospheric changes on wave propagation is key to the mechanisms involved.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:190
Publisher Statement:The original publication is available at


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