1DLR Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, D-82234 Wessling, Germany
2Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Institut für Meteorologie und Klimaforschung, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany
Abstract. Streamers, i.e. finger-like structures, reach from lower into extra-tropical latitudes. They can be detected in N2O or O3 distributions on single lower stratospheric layers in mid-latitudes since they are characterised by high N2O or low O3 values compared to undisturbed mid-latitude values. If irreversible mixing occurs, streamer events significantly contribute to the transfer of tropical air masses to mid-latitudes which is also an exchange of upper tropospheric and stratospheric air. A climatology of streamer events has been established, employing the chemical-transport model KASIMA, which is driven by ECMWF re-analyses (ERA) and operational analyses. For the first time, the seasonal and the geographical distribution of streamer frequencies has been determined on the basis of 9 years of observations.
For the current investigation, a meridional gradient criterion has been newly formulated and applied to the N2O distributions calculated with KASIMA. The climatology has been derived by counting all streamer events between 21 and 25 km for the years 1990 to 1998. It has been further used for the validation of a streamer climatology which has been established in the same way employing data of a multi-year simulation with the coupled chemistry-climate model ECHAM4.L39(DLR)/CHEM (E39/C). It turned out that both climatologies are qualitatively in fair agreement, in particular in the northern hemisphere, where much higher streamer frequencies are found in winter than in summer. In the southern hemisphere, KASIMA analyses indicate strongest streamer activity in September. E39/C streamer frequencies clearly offers an offset from June to October, pointing to model deficiencies with respect to tropospheric dynamics. KASIMA and E39/C results fairly agree from November to May. Some of the findings give strong indications that the streamer events found in the altitude region between 21 and 25 km are mainly forced from the troposphere and are not directly related to the dynamics of the stratosphere, in particular not to the dynamics of the polar vortex.
Sensitivity simulations with E39/C, which represent recent and possible future atmospheric conditions, have been employed to answer the question how climate change would alter streamer frequencies. It is shown that the seasonal cycle does not change but that significant changes occur in months of minimum and maximum streamer frequencies. This could have an impact on mid-latitude distribution of chemical tracers and compounds.
The influence of streamers on the mid-latitude ozone budget has been assessed by applying a special E39/C model configuration. The streamer transport of low ozone is simply inhibited by filling up its ozone content according to the surrounding air masses. It shows that the importance of streamers for the ozone budget strongly decreases with altitude. At 15 km streamers lead to a decrease of ozone by 80%, whereas around 25 km it is only 1 to 5% and at mid-latitude tropopause, ozone decreases by 30% (summer) to 50% (winter).