Articles | Volume 32, issue 7
Regular paper
28 Jul 2014
Regular paper |  | 28 Jul 2014

Stratospheric sudden warming effects on winds and temperature in the middle atmosphere at middle and low latitudes: a study using WACCM

A. Chandran and R. L. Collins

Abstract. A stratospheric sudden warming (SSW) is a dynamical phenomenon of the wintertime stratosphere caused by the interaction between planetary Rossby waves propagating from the troposphere and the stratospheric zonal-mean flow. While the effects of SSW events are seen predominantly in high latitudes, they can also produce significant changes in middle and low latitude temperature and winds. In this study we quantify the middle and low latitude effects of SSW events on temperature and zonal-mean winds using a composite of SSW events between 1988 and 2010 simulated with the specified dynamics version of the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). The temperature and wind responses seen in the tropics also extend into the low latitudes in the other hemisphere. There is variability in observed zonal-mean winds and temperature depending on the observing location within the displaced or split polar vortex and propagation direction of the planetary waves. The propagation of planetary waves show that they originate in mid–high latitudes and propagate upward and equatorward into the mid-latitude middle atmosphere where they produce westward forcing reaching peak values of ~ 60–70 m s−1 day−1. These propagation paths in the lower latitude stratosphere appear to depend on the phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). During the easterly phase of the QBO, waves originating at high latitudes propagate across the equator, while in the westerly phase of the QBO, the planetary waves break at ~ 20–25° N and there is no propagation across the equator. The propagation of planetary waves across the equator during the easterly phase of the QBO reduces the tropical upwelling and poleward flow in the upper stratosphere.