Longitudinal variation of the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation

Kevin Hamilton*, Albert Hetzog, François Vial, Georgiy Stenchikov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The longitudinal dependence of interannual variations of tropical stratospheric wind is examined in a detailed general circulation model simulation and in the limited observations available. A version of the SKYHI model is run with an imposed zonally symmetric zonal momentum source that forces the zonal-mean zonal wind evolution in the tropical stratosphere to be close to an estimate of the observed zonal wind based on radiosonde observations at Singapore during the period 1978-99. This amounts to a kind of simple assimilation model in which only the zonal-mean wind field in the tropical stratosphere is assimilated, and other quantities are allowed to vary freely. A total of five experiments were run, one covering the full 1978-99 period and four for 1989-99. The results at and above about 30 hPa are fairly simple to characterize. When the zonal-mean wind near the equator at a particular level is easterly, the monthly mean wind has only very small zonal contrasts. When mean westerlies are present near the equator, significant zonal asymmetries occur at low latitudes, most notably easterly anomalies over South America and westerly anomalies in the eastern Pacific region. These anomalies generally display a continuous meridional phase propagation with the extratropical quasi-statíonary eddy field in the winter hemisphere. The net result is a significantly weaker peak-to-peak amplitude of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in zonal wind over the South American sector than over the rest of the equatorial band. The zonal contrast in QBO amplitude near 10 hPa exceeds 10%. In the lower stratosphere the zonal asymmetries in the prevailing wind are fairly small. Asymmetries seem to reflect the upward extension of the tropospheric Walker circulation, and are less strongly modulated by the quasi-biennial oscillation in zonal-mean circulation. The model results were checked against limited station observations at Nairobi (1.3°S, 36.7°E), Singapore (1.4°N, 103.9°E). Rochambeau (4.8°N, 52.4°W), and Bogota (4.7°N. 74. 1°W). Overall reasonable agreement was found between the monthly mean zonal winds in the model simulation and these station data. The low-latitude wind field in monthly mean NCEP gridded analyses was also examined. These analyses have some obviously unrealistic features in the tropical stratosphere, but some of the behavior seen in the SKYHI model simulations can be identified as well in the NCEP analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-402
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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