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Modeling the QBO—Improvements resulting from higher‐model vertical resolution


Using the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) climate model, it is shown that with proper choice of the gravity wave momentum flux entering the stratosphere and relatively fine vertical layering of at least 500 m in the upper troposphere‐lower stratosphere (UTLS), a realistic stratospheric quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO) is modeled with the proper period, amplitude, and structure down to tropopause levels. It is furthermore shown that the specified gravity wave momentum flux controls the QBO period whereas the width of the gravity wave momentum flux phase speed spectrum controls the QBO amplitude. Fine vertical layering is required for the proper downward extension to tropopause levels as this permits wave‐mean flow interactions in the UTLS region to be resolved in the model. When vertical resolution is increased from 1000 to 500 m, the modeled QBO modulation of the tropical tropopause temperatures increasingly approach that from observations, and the “tape recorder” of stratospheric water vapor also approaches the observed. The transport characteristics of our GISS models are assessed using age‐of‐air and N2O diagnostics, and it is shown that some of the deficiencies in model transport that have been noted in previous GISS models are greatly improved for all of our tested model vertical resolutions. More realistic tropical‐extratropical transport isolation, commonly referred to as the “tropical pipe,” results from the finer vertical model layering required to generate a realistic QBO.

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