Aeolus wind lidar observations of the 2019/2020 Quasi-Biennial Oscillation disruption with comparison to radiosondes and reanalysis
Abstract. The quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) was unexpectedly disrupted for only the second time in the historical record during the 2019/20 boreal winter. As the dominant mode of atmospheric variability in the tropical stratosphere, and a significant source of seasonal predictability globally, understanding the drivers behind this unusual behaviour is very important. Here, novel data from Aeolus, the first Doppler wind lidar in space, is used to observe the 2019/20 QBO disruption. Aeolus is the first satellite able to observe winds at high resolution on a global scale, and is therefore a uniquely capable platform for studying the evolution of the disruption and the broader circulation changes triggered by it. This study therefore contains the first direct wind observations of the QBO from space, and exploits measurements from a special Aeolus scanning mode, implemented to observe this disruption as it happened. Aeolus observes easterly winds of up to 20 ms−1 in the core of the disruption jet during July 2020. By co-locating with radiosonde measurements from Singapore and ERA5 reanalysis, like-for-like comparisons of the observed wind structures in the tropical stratosphere are produced, showing equatorial Kelvin wave activity and key parts of the Walker Circulation during the disruption period. The onset of the disruption easterly jet occurs 5 days earlier in Aeolus observations compared with the reanalysis. This analysis highlights how Aeolus and future Doppler wind lidar satellites can deepen our understanding of the QBO, its disruptions, and the tropical upper-troposphere lower-stratosphere region more generally.
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