Articles | Volume 14, issue 15
Research article
01 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 01 Aug 2014

Evidence for an earlier greenhouse cooling effect in the stratosphere before 1980 over the Northern Hemisphere

C. S. Zerefos, K. Tourpali, P. Zanis, K. Eleftheratos, C. Repapis, A. Goodman, D. Wuebbles, I. S. A. Isaksen, and J. Luterbacher

Abstract. This study provides a new look at the observed and calculated long-term temperature changes from the lower troposphere to the lower stratosphere since 1958 over the Northern Hemisphere. The data sets include the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis, the Free University of Berlin (FU-Berlin) and the RICH radiosonde data sets as well as historical simulations with the CESM1-WACCM global model participating in CMIP5. The analysis is mainly based on monthly layer mean temperatures derived from geopotential height thicknesses in order to take advantage of the use of the independent FU-Berlin stratospheric data set of geopotential height data since 1957. This approach was followed to extend the records for the investigation of the stratospheric temperature trends to the earliest possible time. After removing the natural variability with an autoregressive multiple regression model our analysis shows that the period 1958–2011 can be divided into two distinct sub-periods of long-term temperature variability and trends: before and after 1980. By calculating trends for the summer time to reduce interannual variability, the two periods are as follows. From 1958 until 1979, a non-significant trend (0.06 ± 0.06 °C decade−1 for NCEP) and slightly cooling trends (−0.12 ± 0.06 °C decade−1 for RICH) are found in the lower troposphere. The second period from 1980 to the end of the records shows significant warming (0.25 ± 0.05 °C decade−1 for both NCEP and RICH). Above the tropopause a significant cooling trend is clearly seen in the lower stratosphere both in the pre-1980 period (−0.58 ± 0.17 °C decade−1 for NCEP, −0.30 ± 0.16 °C decade−1 for RICH and −0.48 ± 0.20 °C decade−1 for FU-Berlin) and the post-1980 period (−0.79 ± 0.18 °C decade−1 for NCEP, −0.66 ± 0.16 °C decade−1 for RICH and −0.82 ± 0.19 °C decade−1 for FU-Berlin). The cooling in the lower stratosphere persists throughout the year from the tropics up to 60° N. At polar latitudes competing dynamical and radiative processes reduce the statistical significance of these trends. Model results are in line with reanalysis and the observations, indicating a persistent cooling (−0.33 °C decade−1) in the lower stratosphere during summer before and after 1980; a feature that is also seen throughout the year. However, the lower stratosphere CESM1-WACCM modelled trends are generally lower than reanalysis and the observations. The contrasting effects of ozone depletion at polar latitudes in winter/spring and the anticipated strengthening of the Brewer–Dobson circulation from man-made global warming at polar latitudes are discussed. Our results provide additional evidence for an early greenhouse cooling signal in the lower stratosphere before 1980, which appears well in advance relative to the tropospheric greenhouse warming signal. The suitability of early warning signals in the stratosphere relative to the troposphere is supported by the fact that the stratosphere is less sensitive to changes due to cloudiness, humidity and man-made aerosols. Our analysis also indicates that the relative contribution of the lower stratosphere versus the upper troposphere low-frequency variability is important for understanding the added value of the long-term tropopause variability related to human-induced global warming.

Final-revised paper