Journal article

The annual cycle in lower stratospheric temperatures revisited

Fueglistaler S, Haynes P, Forster P ...see all

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 11, issue 8 (2011) pp. 3701-3711

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Observed lower stratospheric temperatures show a prominent annual cycle. The cycles in the tropics and Northern Hemisphere are in phase and the cycle in the Southern Hemisphere has the opposite phase. In an elegant and influential paper, Yulaeva, Holton and Wallace (1994) explained the observed pattern as a direct consequence of hemispheric asymmetries in the dynamical forcing of the stratospheric circulation. They showed that in Microwave Sounding Unit channel 4 (weighting centered in the lower stratosphere) data the combined extratropical and the tropical temperature cycle nearly compensate and interpreted the out-of-phase temperature variations between tropics and extratropics as the temperature response to an annual cycle in the wave driven residual circulation. We show that the near-compensation of temperature variations observed by Yulaeva et al. (1994) is artefact of the weighting function of the MSU-4 channel and does not hold on individual pressure levels. We discuss in detail the conditions required that temperature variations compensate, and what insights can be obtained from analysis of tropical, extratropical and global mean temperature variations. Dynamically induced seasonal variations of lower stratospheric ozone lead to an amplification of the seasonal temperature cycle particularly in the tropics. The latitudinal structure of static stability also induces a significant deviation from compensation of tropical and combined extratropical temperature variations. In line with Yulaeva et al. (1994) we affirm that the see-saw pattern in the annual cycles of tropical and combined extratropical temperatures provides an important pointer to mechanistic models for interannual variability and trends, but additionally conclude that the feedback of dynamically induced ozone variations on temperatures and the latitudinal structure of static stability should be included as leading order processes in such models.

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