26 Apr 2022
26 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Dynamics of ENSO-driven stratosphere-to-troposphere transport of ozone over North America

John R. Albers1,2, Amy H. Butler3, Andrew O. Langford3, Dillon Elsbury1,3, and Melissa L. Breeden1,2 John R. Albers et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, 80305, USA
  • 2NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory, Boulder, 80305, USA
  • 3NOAA Chemical Sciences Laboratory, Boulder, 80305, USA

Abstract. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to modulate the strength and frequency of stratosphere-to-troposphere transport (STT) of ozone over the Pacific-North American region during late winter to early summer. Dynamical processes that have been proposed to account for this variability include: variations in the amount of ozone in the lowermost stratosphere that is available for STT, and tropospheric circulation-related variations in the frequency and geographic distribution of individual STT events.

Here we use a large ensemble of Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) simulations (forced by sea-surface temperature (SST) boundary conditions consistent with each phase of ENSO) to show that variability in lower stratospheric ozone and shifts in the Pacific tropospheric jet constructively contribute to the amount of STT of ozone in the North American region during both ENSO phases. In terms of stratospheric variability, ENSO drives ozone anomalies resembling the Pacific-North American teleconnection pattern that span much of the lower stratosphere below 50 hPa. These ozone anomalies, which dominate over ENSO-driven changes in the Brewer-Dobson circulation (including changes due to both the stratospheric residual circulation and quasi-isentropic mixing), strongly modulate the amount of ozone available for STT transport. As a result, during late winter (February–March), the stratospheric ozone response to the teleconnections constructively reinforces anomalous ENSO-jet-driven STT of ozone. However, as ENSO forcing weakens as spring progresses into summer (April–June), the direct effects of the ENSO-jet-driven STT transport weaken. Nevertheless, the residual impacts of the teleconnections on the amount of ozone in the lower stratosphere persist, and these anomalies in turn continue to cause anomalous STT of ozone. These results should prove helpful for interpreting the utility of ENSO as a subseasonal predictor of both free-tropospheric ozone and the probability of stratospheric ozone intrusion events that may cause exceedances in surface air quality standards.

John R. Albers et al.

Status: open (until 13 Jun 2022)

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John R. Albers et al.

John R. Albers et al.


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Short summary
Ozone transported from the stratosphere contributes to background ozone concentrations in the free troposphere and to surface ozone exceedance events that affect human health. The physical processes whereby the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) modulates North American stratosphere-to-troposphere ozone transport during spring are documented, and the usefulness of ENSO for predicting ozone events that may cause exceedances in surface air quality standards during are assessed.