, Volume 80, Issue 3-4, pp 393-410

THE SIGNAL OF THE 11-YEAR SUNSPOT CYCLE IN THE UPPER TROPOSPHERE-LOWER STRATOSPHERE

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Abstract

The paper summarizes work by the authors over the past ten years on an apparent signal of the 11-year sunspot cycle in the lower stratosphere-upper troposphere. The signal appears as a basic, consistent pattern in correlations between heights of stratospheric constant-pressure levels, at least as high as 25 km, and the solar cycle in which the highest correlations are in the subtropics.

The variation of the stratospheric heights in phase with the sunspot cycle are – in the areas of high correlations between the two – associated with temperature variations on the same time scale in the middle and upper troposphere. The spatial distribution of the correlations suggests that the year-to-year changes in tropical and subtropical vertical motions contain a component on the time scale of the solar cycle.

In January and February the correlations with the sunspot cycle are smallest. The smallness of the correlations is owing to the fact that they are different in the east and west years of the quasi-biennial oscillation in the equatorial stratospheric winds. The correlation pattern in the east years is the same as in the other seasons and is statistically significant. In the west years the correlations are insignificant outside the arctic, and the positive correlation in the arctic in these years is related to the fact that major midwinter breakdowns of the cyclonic vortex in the west years so far have happened only at maxima in the solar cycle.

Until recently reliable continuous series of analyses of the stratosphere were not available for the southern hemisphere. The U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have now, however, issued a 23-year series of re-analyzed global data which has made it possible to detect the solar signal on the southern hemisphere. It turns out to be almost the same as that on the northern hemisphere.

The correlations between total column ozone and the sunspot cycle are lowest in the equatorial regions, where ozone is produced, and in the subpolar regions, where the largest amounts are found. In the annual mean the largest correlations lie between 5° lat. and 30° lat. We suggest that this distribution of correlations is due to the fact that the subtropical heights of the constant-pressure surfaces in the ozone layer are higher in maximum than in minimum years of the sunspot cycle, and that the higher subtropical heights in the solar maxima depress the poleward transport of ozone through the subtropics and thus create an abundance of ozone.