Contribution of different processes to changes in tropical lower-stratospheric water vapor in chemistry–climate models
Abstract. Variations in tropical lower-stratospheric humidity influence both the chemistry and climate of the atmosphere. We analyze tropical lower-stratospheric water vapor in 21st century simulations from 12 state-of-the-art chemistry–climate models (CCMs), using a linear regression model to determine the factors driving the trends and variability. Within CCMs, warming of the troposphere primarily drives the long-term trend in stratospheric humidity. This is partially offset in most CCMs by an increase in the strength of the Brewer–Dobson circulation, which tends to cool the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). We also apply the regression model to individual decades from the 21st century CCM runs and compare them to a regression of a decade of observations. Many of the CCMs, but not all, compare well with these observations, lending credibility to their predictions. One notable deficiency is that most CCMs underestimate the impact of the quasi-biennial oscillation on lower-stratospheric water vapor. Our analysis provides a new and potentially superior way to evaluate model trends in lower-stratospheric humidity.