Global Effects of Disruptions to the Stratospheric Circulation

The stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere from about 10 to 50 kilometers above Earth’s surface, over the polar regions is normally very cold during winter, with strong westerly winds forming the polar vortex. However, on some occasions, the normally quiet vortex suddenly warms over a week or two, and the winds slow dramatically, resulting in easterly winds that are more similar to the summer climate. These events are known as “sudden stratospheric warmings” (SSWs). A recent article published in Reviews of Geophysics explores our current understanding of SSWs. Here, the authors explain the effects of SSWs on weather, the upper atmosphere, and space weather, and how these events may alter with climate change.

Where, why,…

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