On the Use of Geometric Moments to Examine the Continuum of Sudden Stratospheric Warmings

Peer Reviewed

Hannachi A, Mitchell D, Gray LJ, & Charlton-Perez A

Journal of Atmospheric Sciences 68, Issue 3, pages 657-674, 2011, 10.1175/2010JAS3585.1.

The polar winter stratospheric vortex is a coherent structure that undergoes different types of deformation that can be revealed by the geometric invariant moments. Three moments are used—the aspect ratio, the centroid latitude, and the area of the vortex based on stratospheric data from the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) project—to study sudden stratospheric warmings. Hierarchical clustering combined with data image visualization techniques is used as well. Using the gap statistic, three optimal clusters are obtained based on the three geometric moments considered here. The 850-K potential vorticity field, as well as the vertical profiles of polar temperature and zonal wind, provides evidence that the clusters represent, respectively, the undisturbed (U), displaced (D), and split (S) states of the polar vortex. This systematic method for identifying and characterizing the state of the polar vortex using objective methods is useful as a tool for analyzing observations and as a test for climate models to simulate the observations. The method correctly identifies all previously identified major warmings and also identifies significant minor warmings where the atmosphere is substantially disturbed but does not quite meet the criteria to qualify as a major stratospheric warming.

Keywords: Empirical orthogonal functions, Statistical techniques, Stratosphere, Stratospheric circulation, Winter/cool season
Categories: Arctic, Natural Science