A new perspective on the dynamical link between the stratosphere and troposphere

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Atmospheric processes of tropospheric origin can perturb the stratosphere, but direct feedback in the opposite direction is usually assumed to be negligible, despite the troposphere's sensitivity to changes in the release of wave activity into the stratosphere1,2,3. Here, however, we present evidence that such a feedback exists and can be significant. We find that if the wintertime Arctic polar stratospheric vortex is distorted, either by waves propagating upward from the troposphere4 or by eastward-travelling stratospheric waves5,6, then there is a concomitant redistribution of stratospheric potential vorticity which induces perturbations in keymeteorological fields in the upper troposphere. The feedback is large despite the much greater mass of the troposphere: it can account for up to half of the geopotential height anomaly at thetropopause. Although the relative strength ofthefeedback is partly due to a cancellation7 between contributions to these anomalies from lower altitudes, our results imply that stratospheric dynamics and its feedback on the troposphere are more significant for climate modelling and data assimilation than was previously assumed.

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Figure 1: Time series of the zonal mean wind at 61.
Figure 2: Quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity, q, for (a) 1992/93 wintertime mean at 10 hPa (30 km) and for event 2 (1 January 1993) at (b) 10 hPa and (c) 100 hPa (16 km).
Figure 3: Geopotential height anomaly fields, Z ′, on the Northern Hemisphere tropopause (215 hPa).
Figure 4: Geopotential contribution function as a function of log pressure-altitude for (a) events and (b) non-events.


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We thank W. Robinson, K. Emanuel and D. Cunnold for helpful discussions, M.McIntyre for comments and suggestions, T. Kindler and R. Wang for help with data acquisition, D.Haas-Laursen for help with the figures, and K. Evans for comments on an earlier draft. This work was sponsored by NASA/UARS.

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Correspondence to Dana E. Hartley.

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