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On the Generation and Maintenance of the 2012/13 Sudden Stratospheric Warming

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On the Generation and Maintenance of the 2012/13 Sudden Stratospheric Warming


Authors: Fen Xu, X. San Liang


Published: July 2017



Using a newly developed analysis tool, multiscale window transform (MWT), and the MWT-based localized multiscale energetics analysis, the 2012/13 sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) is diagnosed for an understanding of the underlying dynamics. The fields are first reconstructed onto three scale windows: that is, mean window, sudden warming window or SSW window, and synoptic window. According to the reconstructions, the major warming period may be divided into three stages: namely, the stages of rapid warming, maintenance, and decay, each with different mechanisms. It is found that the explosive growth of temperature in the rapid warming stage (28 December–10 January) results from the collaboration of a strong poleward heat flux and canonical transfers through baroclinic instabilities in the polar region, which extract available potential energy (APE) from the mean-scale reservoir. In the course, a portion of the acquired APE is converted to and stored in the SSW-scale kinetic energy (KE), leading to a reversal of the polar night jet. In the stage of maintenance (11–25 January), the mechanism is completely different: First the previously converted energy stored in the SSW-scale KE is converted back, and, most importantly, in this time a strong barotropic instability happens over Alaska–Canada, which extracts the mean-scale KE to maintain the high temperature, while the mean-scale KE is mostly from the lower atmosphere, in conformity with the classical paradigm of mean flow–wave interaction with the upward-propagating planetary waves. This study provides an example that a warming may be generated in different stages through distinctly different mechanisms.


Link to full paper: https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/JAS-D-17-0002.1

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