Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
05 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 05 Dec 2014

On the hiatus in the acceleration of tropical upwelling since the beginning of the 21st century

J. Aschmann, J. P. Burrows, C. Gebhardt, A. Rozanov, R. Hommel, M. Weber, and A. M. Thompson

Abstract. Chemistry–climate models predict an acceleration of the upwelling branch of the Brewer–Dobson circulation as a consequence of increasing global surface temperatures, resulting from elevated levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. The observed decrease of ozone in the tropical lower stratosphere during the last decades of the 20th century is consistent with the anticipated acceleration of upwelling. However, more recent satellite observations of ozone reveal that this decrease has unexpectedly stopped in the first decade of the 21st century, challenging the implicit assumption of a continuous acceleration of tropical upwelling. In this study we use three decades of chemistry-transport-model simulations (1980–2013) to investigate this phenomenon and resolve this apparent contradiction. Aside from a high-bias between 1985–1990, our model is able to reproduce the observed tropical lower stratosphere ozone record. A regression analysis identifies a significant decrease in the early period followed by a statistically robust trend-change after 2002, in qualitative agreement with the observations. We demonstrate that this trend-change is correlated with structural changes in the vertical transport, represented in the model by diabatic heating rates taken from the reanalysis product Era-Interim. These changes lead to a hiatus in the acceleration of tropical upwelling between 70–30 hPa and a southward shift of the tropical pipe at 30 and 100 hPa during the past decade, which appear to be the primary causes for the observed trend-change in ozone.

Short summary
This study compares observations and simulation results of ozone in the lower tropical stratosphere. It shows that ozone in this region decreased from 1985 up to about 2002, which is consistent with an increase in tropical upwelling predicted by climate models. However, the decrease effectively stops after 2002, indicating that significant changes in tropical upwelling have occurred. The most important factor appears to be that the vertical ascent in the tropics is no longer accelerating.
Final-revised paper