The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation in the Earth’s Atmosphere and its Links to Longer Period Variability

  • James R. Holton
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 25)


The dynamical theory of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of the zonal winds in the equatorial stratosphere is reviewed, and the role of the QBO in producing interannual variability in the extratropical stratosphere is discussed. It is argued that the extratropical winter stratosphere has two basic climate regimes; one in which the eddy motions are strong and polar temperatures are warm, and a second in which the eddy motions are weak and polar temperatures are cold. The equatorial QBO influences the extratropics through the mechanism of changing the probability that the winter stratosphere lies in either the strong eddy or weak eddy regime. This influence appears to undergo a quasi-decadal variation (QDO), which may or may not be related to the solar cycle. It is speculated that if the QDO is related to solar forcing, the mechanism is one in which the net effect of weak solar cycle forcing alters the probability density function of the climate regimes in such a way that the strong eddy regime becomes more probable in the westerly QBO phase during sunspot maximum, than during sunspot minimum.


Solar Cycle Zonal Wind Diabatic Heating Northern Hemisphere Winter Radiative Equilibrium 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Holton
    • 1
  1. 1.Atmospheric Sciences DepartmentUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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