A new diagnostic of stratospheric polar vortices

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We studied the main climatological features of the Arctic and Antarctic stratospheric vortices, using a new approach based on defining the vortex edge as the 50 hPa geostrophic streamline of maximum average velocity at each hemisphere. Given the use of NCAR-NCEP reanalysis data, it was thought advisable to limit the study to the periods 1958–2004 for the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and 1979–2004 for the Southern Hemisphere (SH). After describing the method and testing sample results with those from other approaches, we analysed the climatological means and trends of the four most distinctive characteristics of the vortices: average latitude, strength, area, and temperature. In general terms, our results confirm most of what is already known about the stratospheric vortices from previous studies that used different data and approaches. In addition, the new methodology provides some interesting new quantifications of the dominant wavenumber and its interannual variability, as well as the principal variability modes through an empirical orthogonal function analysis that was performed directly over the vortex trajectories. The main drawbacks of the methodology, such as noticeable problems characterising highly disturbed stratospheric structures as multiple or off-pole vortices, are also identified.
© 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science under the project TROJET (CGL2005-07288-C05). We thank Alexey Karpetchko for providing data on the stratospheric vortex and the Xunta de Galicia, the FCT of Portuguese Ministry of Science (SFRH/BPD/22178/2005) and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science for granting the stays of R. Nieto and L. Gimeno in the CGUL through the programmes “Bolsas para estadias no estranxeiro” and “Programa Nacional de ayudas para la movilidad de profesores de universidad e investigadores españoles y extranjeros”. The authors also thank reviewers for their useful comments to the original manuscript.