The impact of wave-mean flow interaction on the Northern Hemisphere polar vortex after tropical volcanic eruptions

Bittner, Matthias, Timmreck, Claudia, Schmidt, Hauke, Toohey, Matthew and Krüger, Kirstin (2016) The impact of wave-mean flow interaction on the Northern Hemisphere polar vortex after tropical volcanic eruptions Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 121 (10). pp. 5281-5297. DOI 10.1002/2015JD024603.

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The current generation of Earth system models that participate in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) does not, on average, produce a strengthened Northern Hemisphere (NH) polar vortex after large tropical volcanic eruptions as suggested by observational records. Here we investigate the impact of volcanic eruptions on the NH winter stratosphere with an ensemble of 20 model simulations of the Max Planck Institute Earth system model. We compare the dynamical impact in simulations of the very large 1815 Tambora eruption with the averaged dynamical response to the two largest eruptions of the CMIP5 historical simulations (the 1883 Krakatau and the 1991 Pinatubo eruptions). We find that for both the Tambora and the averaged Krakatau-Pinatubo eruptions the radiative perturbation only weakly affects the polar vortex directly. The position of the maximum temperature anomaly gradient is located at approximately 30°N, where we obtain significant westerly zonal wind anomalies between 10hPa and 30hPa. Under the very strong forcing of the Tambora eruption, the NH polar vortex is significantly strengthened because the subtropical westerly wind anomalies are sufficiently strong to robustly alter the propagation of planetary waves. The average response to the eruptions of Krakatau and Pinatubo reveals a slight strengthening of the polar vortex, but individual ensemble members differ substantially, indicating that internal variability plays a dominant role. For the Tambora eruption the ensemble variability of the zonal mean temperature and zonal wind anomalies during midwinter and late winter is significantly reduced compared to the volcanically unperturbed period.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Polar vortex; Stratosphere dynamics; Tambora; Volcanic eruption
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-ME Maritime Meteorology
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1002/2015JD024603
ISSN: 0148-0227
Projects: MiKlip
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2016 08:10
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2017 08:03

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