The Influence of Stratospheric Soot and Sulfate Aerosols on the Northern Hemisphere Wintertime Atmospheric Circulation

Joshua Coupe, Alan Robock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Northern Hemisphere wintertime circulation response to volcanic eruptions has been explored extensively using general circulation models. In observations and some models, the response is characterized by an enhanced stratospheric polar vortex (SPV), a positive mode of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and warm surface temperatures during the winter over North America and Eurasia. A weak surface air temperature signal in previous studies has led to conflicting conclusions on the robustness of the response. Here, we use simulations with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) of six nuclear war scenarios to present a new perspective on the connection between stratospheric aerosol heating, the SPV, and the surface temperature response. We show that stratospheric aerosol heating by soot is the primary contributor to the SPV response in nuclear war simulations, which is coupled to the troposphere and projects as a positive mode of the NAO at the surface. Winter warming is observed across northern Eurasia, albeit poleward of the response after volcanic eruptions. We compare the results to simulations of volcanic eruptions and find that observed Eurasian warming in the first winter after the 1963 Agung, 1982 El Chichón, and 1991 Pinatubo volcanic eruptions is simulated with the NCAR CAM5 climate model only when tropical sea surface temperatures, including the observed El Niño, are specified along with the volcanic aerosols. This suggests an undiagnosed tropospheric mechanism connecting the tropics and high latitudes, as without specifying sea surface temperatures, internal variability dominates the simulated winter warming response after historical volcanic eruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JD034513
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Volume126
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 16 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • Arctic Oscillation
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • nuclear winter
  • polar vortex
  • volcanic eruptions
  • winter warming

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