Maintenance of the stratospheric structure in an idealized general circulation model

M. Jucker, Stephan Andreas Fueglistaler, G. K. Vallis

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18 Scopus citations


This work explores the maintenance of the stratospheric structure in a primitive equation model that is forced by a Newtonian cooling with a prescribed radiative equilibrium temperature field. Models such as this are well suited to analyze and address questions regarding the nature of wave propagation and troposphere- stratosphere interactions. The focus lies on the lower to midstratosphere and the mean annual cycle, with its large interhemispheric variations in the radiative background state and forcing, is taken as a benchmark to be simulated with reasonable verisimilitude. A reasonably realistic basic stratospheric temperature structure is a necessary first step in understanding stratospheric dynamics. It is first shown that using a realistic radiative background temperature field based on radiative transfer calculations substantially improves the basic structure of the model stratosphere compared to previously used setups. Then, the physical processes that are needed to maintain the seasonal cycle of temperature in the lower stratosphere are explored. It is found that an improved stratosphere and seasonally varying topographically forced stationary waves are, in themselves, insufficient to produce a seasonal cycle of sufficient amplitude in the tropics, even if the topographic forcing is large. Upwelling associated with baroclinic wave activity is an important influence on the tropical lower stratosphere and the seasonal variation of tropospheric baroclinic activity contributes significantly to the seasonal cycle of the lower tropical stratosphere. Given a reasonably realistic basic stratospheric structure and a seasonal cycle in both stationary wave activity and tropospheric baroclinic instability, it is possible to obtain a seasonal cycle in the lower stratosphere of amplitude comparable to the observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3341-3358
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Atmospheric
  • Dynamics
  • Orographic effects
  • Primitive equations model
  • Stratospheric circulation
  • Tropical variability
  • Waves


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