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Title: The influence of the quasi-biennial oscillation on the stratospheric polar vortices
Author: Watson, Peter Alan Gazzi
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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The mean strengths of the wintertime stratospheric polar vortices are known to be related to the phase of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in the tropical stratosphere from circulation statistics - the "Holton-Tan relationship". The principal topic of this thesis is improving understanding of the mechanism behind the QBO's influence. Following the example of previous studies, the QBO influence on the Northern Hemisphere (NH) extratropics on monthly time scales in an observational reanalysis is examined, and is shown to closely resemble the stratospheric Northern annular mode (NAM). It is argued that this may not be informative about the mechanism, as the response could be NAM-like for many different mechanisms. It is suggested that examining the transient response of the NH extratropics to forcing by the QBO would be much more informative, particularly on time scales of a few days. In a primitive equation model of the middle atmosphere, the long-term stratospheric NH response to imposed zonal torques is often found to be NAM-like under perpetual January conditions, with wave feedbacks making a very important contribution. However, the response in runs with a seasonal cycle is not NAM-like. Investigation of the transient responses indicates the wave feedbacks are qualitatively similar in each case but only strong enough under perpetual January conditions to make the long-term response NAM-like. This supports the hypothesis that feedbacks from large-scale dynamics tend to make the stratospheric response to arbitrary forcings NAM-like, and therefore indicates that the long-term response is not generally useful for understanding forcing mechanisms. Examining the short-term transient response to known torques is found to be more successful at inferring information about the torques than several other previously proposed methods. Finally, the short-term transient response of the NH extratropics to forcing by the easterly QBO phase in a general circulation model is found to be consistent with the proposed mechanism of Holton and Tan (1980), indicating that this mechanism plays a role in the Holton-Tan relationship.
Supervisor: Gray, Lesley Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Atmospheric,Oceanic,and Planetary physics ; stratosphere ; dynamics ; quasi-biennial oscillation ; polar vortex ; Holton-Tan relationship ; annular mode