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Atmospheric Responses to Solar Wind Dynamic Pressure

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Statistically significant responses of the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) and the equatorial stratospheric Quasi-biennial Oscillation (QBO) to solar wind dynamic pressure are detected.

The stratospheric QBO response to solar wind dynamic pressure is characterized by a vertical three-cell anomaly pattern with westerly anomalies both in the troposphere and the upper stratosphere and easterly anomalies in the lower stratosphere. The QBO in the lower stratosphere is found to be preferably more easterly during July to October when the solar wind dynamic pressure is high. These lower stratospheric easterly anomalies are primarily linked to the high frequency component of solar wind dynamic pressure with periods shorter than 3-years. This anomalous behavior in tropical winds is accompanied by a downward propagation of positive temperature anomalies from the upper stratosphere to the lower stratosphere over a period of a year.

In terms of the NAM , it is found that when December to January solar wind dynamic pressure is high, the Northern Hemispheric (NH) circulation response is marked by a stronger polar vortex and weaker sub-tropical jet in the upper to middle stratosphere. As the winter progresses, the Arctic becomes colder and the jet anomalies shift poleward and downward. In spring, the polar stratosphere becomes anomalously warmer. At solar maxima, significant positive correlations are found between December to January solar wind dynamic pressure and the mid- to late winter NAM all the way from the surface to 20 hPa, implying a strengthened polar vortex, reduced Brewer-Dobson circulation and enhanced stratosphere-troposphere coupling. At solar minima, there is no signal in the NH winter but negative responses were found in the stratospheric NAM during spring.

These results suggest that the solar wind dynamic pressure exerts a seasonal change of the tropical upwelling which results in a systemic modulation of the annual cycle in the lower stratospheric temperature, which in turn affects the QBO and the NAM . However, the route by which the effects of solar wind forcing might propagate to the lower atmosphere is yet to be understood.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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