30 Mar 2023
 | 30 Mar 2023

The QBO and global-scale tropical waves in Aeolus wind observations, radiosonde data, and reanalyses

Manfred Ern, Mohamadou A. Diallo, Dina Khordakova, Isabell Krisch, Peter Preusse, Oliver Reitebuch, Jörn Ungermann, and Martin Riese

Abstract. The quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of the stratospheric tropical winds influences the global circulation over a wide range of latitudes and altitudes. Although it has strong effects on surface weather and climate, climate models have large difficulties in simulating a realistic QBO, especially in the lower stratosphere. Therefore, global wind observations in the tropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) are of particular interest for investigating the QBO and the tropical waves that contribute significantly to its driving. In our work, we focus on the years 2018–2022 and investigate the QBO and different tropical wave modes in the UTLS region using global wind observations by the Aeolus satellite instrument, and three meteorological reanalyses (ERA-5, JRA-55, and MERRA-2). Further, we compare these data with observations of selected radiosonde stations. By comparison with Aeolus observations, we find that on zonal average the QBO in the lower stratosphere is well represented in all three reanalyses, with ERA-5 performing best. Averaged over the years 2018–2022, agreement between Aeolus and the reanalyses is better than 1 to 2 m s−1, with somewhat larger differences during some periods. Different from zonal averages, radiosonde stations provide only local observations and are therefore biased by global-scale tropical waves, which limits their use as a QBO standard. While reanalyses perform well on zonal average, there can be considerable local biases between reanalyses and radiosondes. We also find that, in the tropical UTLS, zonal wind variances of stationary waves and the most prominent global-scale traveling equatorial wave modes, such as Kelvin waves, Rossby-gravity waves, and equatorial Rossby waves, are in good agreement between Aeolus and all three reanalyses (in most cases better than 20 % of the peak values in the UTLS). On zonal average, this supports the use of reanalyses as a reference for comparison with free-running climate models, while locally certain biases exist, particularly in the QBO wind shear zones, and around the 2019–2020 QBO disruption.

Manfred Ern et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-408', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Apr 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-408', Anonymous Referee #2, 02 May 2023

Manfred Ern et al.

Manfred Ern et al.


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Short summary
The quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) of the stratospheric tropical winds is an important mode of climate variability, but not well reproduced in free-running climate models. We use the novel global wind observations by the Aeolus satellite and radiosondes to show that the QBO is captured well in three modern reanalyses (ERA-5, JRA-55, and MERRA-2). Good agreement is found also between Aeolus and reanalyses for large-scale tropical wave modes in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.