22 Jun 2022
22 Jun 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

The stratosphere: dynamics and variability

Neal Butchart Neal Butchart
  • Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK

Abstract. Large-scale, intra-seasonal to inter-annual variability of the stratosphere is reviewed. Much of the variability is dynamical and induced by waves emanating from the troposphere. It is largely characterised by fluctuations in the strength of the polar vortex in winter and a quasi-biennial oscillation in the equatorial winds. Existing theories for the variability are generally formulated in terms of wave mean flow interactions, with refinements due, in part, to teleconnections between the tropics and extratropics. Climate and seasonal forecast models are able to reproduce much of the observed polar stratospheric variability and are increasingly successful in the tropics too. Compared to the troposphere the models display longer predictability timescales for variations within the stratosphere. Despite containing just under 20 % of the atmosphere's mass the stratosphere's variability exerts a powerful downward influence on the troposphere that can affect surface extremes. The stratosphere is therefore a useful source of additional skill for surface predictions. However, a complete dynamical explanation for the downward coupling is yet to be established.

Neal Butchart

Status: open (until 03 Aug 2022)

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Neal Butchart

Neal Butchart


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Short summary
The stratosphere contains under a fifth of the atmosphere's mass but through its variability has a significant influence at ground level. Features of the variability are high-latitude sudden stratospheric warmings and a tropical quasi-biennial oscillation. Much of the variability is dynamical due to waves from the troposphere interacting with the mean flow. Dynamical stratospheric variability, its representation and predictability in models and coupling to the troposphere are reviewed.