Articles | Volume 16, issue 24
Research article
15 Dec 2016
Research article |  | 15 Dec 2016

Multidecadal variations of the effects of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation on the climate system

Stefan Brönnimann, Abdul Malik, Alexander Stickler, Martin Wegmann, Christoph C. Raible, Stefan Muthers, Julien Anet, Eugene Rozanov, and Werner Schmutz

Abstract. Effects of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) on tropospheric climate are not always strong or they appear only intermittently. Studying them requires long time series of both the QBO and climate variables, which has restricted previous studies to the past 30–50 years. Here we use the benefits of an existing QBO reconstruction back to 1908. We first investigate additional, newly digitized historical observations of stratospheric winds to test the reconstruction. Then we use the QBO time series to analyse atmospheric data sets (reconstructions and reanalyses) as well as the results of coupled ocean–atmosphere–chemistry climate model simulations that were forced with the reconstructed QBO. We investigate effects related to (1) tropical–extratropical interaction in the stratosphere, wave–mean flow interaction and subsequent downward propagation, and (2) interaction between deep tropical convection and stratospheric flow. We generally find weak connections, though some are statistically significant over the 100-year period and consistent with model results. Apparent multidecadal variations in the connection between the QBO and the investigated climate responses are consistent with a small effect in the presence of large variability, with one exception: the imprint on the northern polar vortex, which is seen in recent reanalysis data, is not found in the period 1908–1957. Conversely, an imprint in Berlin surface air temperature is only found in 1908–1957 but not in the recent period. Likewise, in the model simulations both links tend to appear alternatingly, suggesting a more systematic modulation due to a shift in the circulation, for example. Over the Pacific warm pool, we find increased convection during easterly QBO, mainly in boreal winter in observation-based data as well as in the model simulations, with large variability. No QBO effects were found in the Indian monsoon strength or Atlantic hurricane frequency.

Short summary
The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation is a wind oscillation in the equatorial stratosphere. Effects on climate have been found, which is relevant for seasonal forecasts. However, up to now only relatively short records were available, and even within these the climate imprints were intermittent. Here we analyze a 108-year long reconstruction as well as four 405-year long simulations. We confirm most of the claimed QBO effects on climate, but they are small, which explains apparently variable effects.
Final-revised paper