Analyzing ozone variations and uncertainties at high latitudes during sudden stratospheric warming events using MERRA-2

Bahramvash S.S., et al., 2022: Analyzing ozone variations and uncertainties at high latitudes during sudden stratospheric warming events using MERRA-2. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 22 (8): 5435–5458,


Stratospheric circulation is a critical part of the Arctic ozone cycle. Sudden stratospheric warming events (SSWs) manifest the strongest alteration of stratospheric dynamics. During SSWs, changes in planetary wave propagation vigorously influence zonal mean zonal wind, temperature, and tracer concentrations in the stratosphere over the high latitudes. In this study, we examine six persistent major SSWs from 2004 to 2020 using the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2). Using the unique density of observations around the Greenland sector at high latitudes, we perform comprehensive comparisons of high-latitude observations with the MERRA-2 ozone dataset during the six major SSWs. Our results show that MERRA-2 captures the high variability of mid-stratospheric ozone fluctuations during SSWs over high latitudes. However, larger uncertainties are observed in the lower stratosphere and troposphere. The zonally averaged stratospheric ozone shows a dramatic increase of 9 %–29 % in total column ozone (TCO) near the time of each SSW, which lasts up to 2 months. This study shows that the average shape of the Arctic polar vortex before SSWs influences the geographical extent, timing, and magnitude of ozone changes. The SSWs exhibit a more significant impact on ozone over high northern latitudes when the average polar vortex is mostly elongated as seen in 2009 and 2018 compared to the events in which the polar vortex is displaced towards Europe. Strong correlation (R2=90  %) is observed between the magnitude of change in average equivalent potential vorticity before and after SSWs and the associated averaged total column ozone changes over high latitudes. This paper investigates the different terms of the ozone continuity equation using MERRA-2 circulation, which emphasizes the key role of vertical advection in mid-stratospheric ozone during the SSWs and the magnified vertical advection in elongated vortex shape as seen in 2009 and 2018.