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Stratospheric Impacts on the Troposphere
Hartley, D.E., Villarin, J.T., Black, R.X. and Davis, C.A.  1998.  A new perspective on the dynamical link between the stratosphere and troposphere.  Nature 391: 471-474.

What was done
Meteorological data for the winter of 1992/93 were used to study a broad range of stratospheric polar vortex distortions for possible impacts on meteorological events in the troposphere.

What was learned
The authors state that the results of their study "clearly indicate that stratospheric processes induce significant anomalies in dynamical fields at the tropopause."

What it means
Although atmospheric processes of tropospheric origin are known to have the ability to perturb the stratosphere, feedback in the opposite direction has usually been assumed to be negligible.  The results of this study, however, demonstrate that this assumption is incorrect; and they suggest that a more realistic representation of the stratosphere may be required to enable general circulation models (GCMs) of the atmosphere to properly simulate the troposphere.

This shortcoming of current climate models may be critical; for scientists have long felt that the upper atmosphere may amplify the effects of a number of solar phenomena.  This study now suggests that the amplified perturbations of these phenomena may well be propagated downward to the troposphere, where they could significantly impact earth's climate.  The strong correlations that have periodically been observed between surface air temperature variations and certain solar variations lends credence to this possibility, which in turn casts a pall of uncertainty over current GCM predictions of CO2-induced global warming.

Reviewed 15 September 1998