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Volume 18, issue 17 | Copyright

Special issue: Water vapour in the upper troposphere and middle atmosphere:...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 13055-13073, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-13055-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Sep 2018

Research article | 11 Sep 2018

Response of stratospheric water vapor and ozone to the unusual timing of El Niño and the QBO disruption in 2015–2016

Mohamadou Diallo1,2, Martin Riese1, Thomas Birner3, Paul Konopka1, Rolf Müller1, Michaela I. Hegglin4, Michelle L. Santee5, Mark Baldwin6, Bernard Legras2, and Felix Ploeger1 Mohamadou Diallo et al.
  • 1Institute of Energy and Climate Research, Stratosphere (IEK-7), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 2Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, UMR8539, IPSL, UPMC/ENS/CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
  • 3Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 5Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
  • 6College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Abstract. The stratospheric circulation determines the transport and lifetime of key trace gases in a changing climate, including water vapor and ozone, which radiatively impact surface climate. The unusually warm El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event aligned with a disrupted Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) caused an unprecedented perturbation to this circulation in 2015–2016. Here, we quantify the impact of the alignment of these two phenomena in 2015–2016 on lower stratospheric water vapor and ozone from satellite observations. We show that the warm ENSO event substantially increased water vapor and decreased ozone in the tropical lower stratosphere. The QBO disruption significantly decreased global lower stratospheric water vapor and tropical ozone from early spring to late autumn. Thus, this QBO disruption reversed the lower stratosphere moistening triggered by the alignment of the warm ENSO event with westerly QBO in early boreal winter. Our results suggest that the interplay of ENSO events and QBO phases will be crucial for the distributions of radiatively active trace gases in a changing future climate, when increasing El Niño-like conditions and a decreasing lower stratospheric QBO amplitude are expected.

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The unprecedented timing of an El Niño event aligned with the disrupted QBO in 2015–2016 caused a perturbation to the stratospheric circulation, affecting trace gases. This paper resolves the puzzling response of the lower stratospheric water vapor by showing that the QBO disruption reversed the lower stratosphere moistening triggered by the alignment of the El Niño event with a westerly QBO in early boreal winter.
The unprecedented timing of an El Niño event aligned with the disrupted QBO in 2015–2016 caused...
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