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The mystery of recent stratospheric temperature trends



A new data set of middle- and upper-stratospheric temperatures based on reprocessing of satellite radiances provides a view of stratospheric climate change during the period 1979–2005 that is strikingly different from that provided by earlier data sets. The new data call into question our understanding of observed stratospheric temperature trends and our ability to test simulations of the stratospheric response to emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances. Here we highlight the important issues raised by the new data and suggest how the climate science community can resolve them.

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Figure 1: Global-mean stratospheric temperature anomalies since 1979.
Figure 2: Trends in global-mean stratospheric temperatures between 1979 and 2005.
Figure 3: The north–south structure of zonal-mean stratospheric temperature trends between 1979 and 2005.


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We thank K. Shine, M. Dameris, M. Free and R. Saunders for suggestions and comments on the manuscript. D.W.J.T. is supported by the National Science Foundation Climate Dynamics Program under budget number AGS-0936255. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Working Group on Coupled Modelling and the WCRP CCM Validation project (CCMVal), which are responsible for archiving the CMIP5 and CCMVal2 output, respectively. We also thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output as listed in Table 1. For CMIP the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals.

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Authors and Affiliations



D.W.J.T. led the analyses and the writing of the text. D.J.S., W.J.R. and C.-Z.Z. contributed to the text and analysis design and provided guidance on all aspects of the study. A.H.B. provided the CMIP5 output, assisted with the analyses of the model output, and provided advice on the text. C.M. provided expertise on the data sets used in the study and advice on the text. A.O. assisted with the analyses and data processing and provided advice on the text. C.L. and R.L. provided advice on the text.

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Correspondence to David W. J. Thompson.

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Thompson, D., Seidel, D., Randel, W. et al. The mystery of recent stratospheric temperature trends. Nature 491, 692–697 (2012).

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