The atmosphere displays modes of variability whose structures exhibit a strong longitudinally symmetric (annular) component that extends from the surface to the stratosphere in middle and high latitudes of both hemispheres. In the past 30 years, these modes have exhibited trends that seem larger than their natural background variability, and may be related to human influences on stratospheric ozone and/or atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The pattern of climate trends during the past few decades is marked by rapid cooling and ozone depletion in the polar lower stratosphere of both hemispheres, coupled with an increasing strength of the wintertime westerly polar vortex and a poleward shift of the westerly wind belt at the earth's surface. Annular modes of variability are fundamentally a result of internal dynamical feedbacks within the climate system, and as such can show a large response to rather modest external forcing. The dynamics and thermodynamics of these modes are such that strong synergistic interactions between stratospheric ozone depletion and greenhouse warming are possible. These interactions may be responsible for the pronounced changes in tropospheric and stratospheric climate observed during the past few decades. If these trends continue, they could have important implications for the climate of the 21st century.