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Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 12;6:29537. doi: 10.1038/srep29537.

Decadal variability of tropical tropopause temperature and its relationship to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

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GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Kiel, Germany.
Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany.
Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway.


Tropopause temperatures (TPTs) control the amount of stratospheric water vapour, which influences chemistry, radiation and circulation in the stratosphere, and is also an important driver of surface climate. Decadal variability and long-term trends in tropical TPTs as well as stratospheric water vapour are largely unknown. Here, we present for the first time evidence, from reanalysis and state-of-the-art climate model simulations, of a link between decadal variability in tropical TPTs and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The negative phase of the PDO is associated with anomalously cold sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical east and central Pacific, which enhance the zonal SST gradient across the equatorial Pacific. The latter drives a stronger Walker Circulation and a weaker Hadley Circulation, which leads to less convection and subsequently a warmer tropopause over the central equatorial Pacific. Over the North Pacific, positive sea level pressure anomalies occur, which damp vertical wave propagation into the stratosphere. This in turn slows the Brewer-Dobson circulation, and hence warms the tropical tropopause, enabling more water vapour to enter the stratosphere. The reverse chain of events holds for the positive phase of the PDO. Such ocean-troposphere-stratosphere interactions may provide an important feedback on the Earth's global surface temperature.

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