Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part II: Trends

David W. J. Thompson, John M. Wallace, Gabriele C. Hegerl

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The authors exploit the remarkable similarity between recent climate trends and the structure of the “annular modes” in the month-to-month variability (as described in a companion paper) to partition the trends into components linearly congruent with and linearly independent of the annular modes.

The index of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) annular mode, referred to as the Arctic Oscillation (AO), has exhibited a trend toward the high index polarity over the past few decades. The largest and most significant trends are observed during the “active season” for stratospheric planetary wave–mean flow interaction, January–March (JFM), when fluctuations in the AO amplify with height into the lower stratosphere. For the periods of record considered, virtually all of the JFM geopotential height falls over the polar cap region and the strengthening of the subpolar westerlies from the surface to the lower stratosphere, ∼50% of the JFM warming over the Eurasian continent, ∼30% of the JFM warming over the NH as a whole, ∼40% of the JFM stratospheric cooling over the polar cap region, and ∼40% of the March total column ozone losses poleward of 40°N are linearly congruent with month-to-month variations in the AO index. Summertime sea level pressure falls over the Arctic basin are suggestive of a year-round drift toward the positive polarity of the AO, but the evidence is less conclusive. Owing to the photochemical memory inherent in the ozone distribution, roughly half the ozone depletion during the NH summer months is linearly dependent on AO-related ozone losses incurred during the previous active season.

Lower-tropospheric geopotential height falls over the Antarctic polar cap region are indicative of a drift toward the high index polarity of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) annular mode with no apparent seasonality. In contrast, the trend toward a cooling and strengthening of the SH stratospheric polar vortex peaks sharply during the stratosphere’s relatively short active season centered in November. The most pronounced SH ozone losses have occurred in September–October, one or two months prior to this active season. In both hemispheres, positive feedbacks involving ozone destruction, cooling, and a weakening of the wave-driven meridional circulation may be contributing to a delayed breakdown of the polar vortex and enhanced ozone losses during spring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018–1036
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2000

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