Articles | Volume 28, issue 11
26 Nov 2010
 | 26 Nov 2010

Tropospheric forcing of the boreal polar vortex splitting in January 2003

D. H. W. Peters, P. Vargin, A. Gabriel, N. Tsvetkova, and V. Yushkov

Abstract. The dynamical evolution of the relatively warm stratospheric winter season 2002–2003 in the Northern Hemisphere was studied and compared with the cold winter 2004–2005 based on NCEP-Reanalyses. Record low temperatures were observed in the lower and middle stratosphere over the Arctic region only at the beginning of the 2002–2003 winter. Six sudden stratospheric warming events, including the major warming event with a splitting of the polar vortex in mid-January 2003, have been identified. This led to a very high vacillation of the zonal mean circulation and a weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex over the whole winter season. An estimate of the mean chemical ozone destruction inside the polar vortex showed a total ozone loss of about 45 DU in winter 2002–2003; that is about 2.5 times smaller than in winter 2004–2005.

Embedded in a winter with high wave activity, we found two subtropical Rossby wave trains in the troposphere before the major sudden stratospheric warming event in January 2003. These Rossby waves propagated north-eastwards and maintained two upper tropospheric anticyclones. At the same time, the amplification of an upward propagating planetary wave 2 in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere was observed, which could be caused primarily by those two wave trains. Furthermore, two extratropical Rossby wave trains over the North Pacific Ocean and North America were identified a couple of days later, which contribute mainly to the vertical planetary wave activity flux just before and during the major warming event. It is shown that these different tropospheric forcing processes caused the major warming event and contributed to the splitting of the polar vortex.