Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 8227-8247, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
13 Jun 2018
Surface impacts of the Quasi Biennial Oscillation
Lesley J. Gray1, James A. Anstey2, Yoshio Kawatani3, Hua Lu4, Scott Osprey1, and Verena Schenzinger1,5 1National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS), Department of Ocean, Atmosphere and Planetary Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PU, UK
2Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, Environment and Climate Change Canada, University of Victoria, Victoria, V8W 2Y2, Canada
3Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokohama, 236-0001, Japan
4British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK
5Institute for Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Abstract. Teleconnections between the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO) and the Northern Hemisphere zonally averaged zonal winds, mean sea level pressure (mslp) and tropical precipitation are explored. The standard approach that defines the QBO using the equatorial zonal winds at a single pressure level is compared with the empirical orthogonal function approach that characterizes the vertical profile of the equatorial winds. Results are interpreted in terms of three potential routes of influence, referred to as the tropical, subtropical and polar routes. A novel technique is introduced to separate responses via the polar route that are associated with the stratospheric polar vortex, from the other two routes. A previously reported mslp response in January, with a pattern that resembles the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation under QBO westerly conditions, is confirmed and found to be primarily associated with a QBO modulation of the stratospheric polar vortex. This mid-winter response is relatively insensitive to the exact height of the maximum QBO westerlies and a maximum positive response occurs with westerlies over a relatively deep range between 10 and 70 hPa. Two additional mslp responses are reported, in early winter (December) and late winter (February/March). In contrast to the January response the early and late winter responses show maximum sensitivity to the QBO winds at  ∼  20 and  ∼  70 hPa respectively, but are relatively insensitive to the QBO winds in between ( ∼  50 hPa). The late winter response is centred over the North Pacific and is associated with QBO influence from the lowermost stratosphere at tropical/subtropical latitudes in the Pacific sector. The early winter response consists of anomalies over both the North Pacific and Europe, but the mechanism for this response is unclear. Increased precipitation occurs over the tropical western Pacific under westerly QBO conditions, particularly during boreal summer, with maximum sensitivity to the QBO winds at 70 hPa. The band of precipitation across the Pacific associated with the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) shifts southward under QBO westerly conditions. The empirical orthogonal function (EOF)-based analysis suggests that this ITCZ precipitation response may be particularly sensitive to the vertical wind shear in the vicinity of 70 hPa and hence the tropical tropopause temperatures.
Citation: Gray, L. J., Anstey, J. A., Kawatani, Y., Lu, H., Osprey, S., and Schenzinger, V.: Surface impacts of the Quasi Biennial Oscillation, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 8227-8247,, 2018.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
A major phenomenon in the stratosphere is the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO). Although a feature of the equatorial stratosphere, its influence extends to surface weather at both equatorial and mid latitudes. Improved knowledge of mechanisms of influence should help to improve weather forecasts. In this paper, QBO impacts at the surface are characterized and dominant mechanisms explored. Three pathways are identified, referred to as the tropical, subtropical and polar routes.
A major phenomenon in the stratosphere is the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO). Although a...