Publications by Lesley Gray

Slowdown of the Walker circulation at solar cycle maximum

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Sciences 116 (2019) 7186-7191

S Misios, L Gray, M Knudsen, C Karoff, H Schmidt, J Haigh

The Pacific Walker Circulation (PWC) fluctuates on interannual and multidecadal timescales under the influence of internal variability and external forcings. Here, we provide observational evidence that the 11-y solar cycle (SC) affects the PWC on decadal timescales. We observe a robust reduction of east–west sea-level pressure gradients over the Indo-Pacific Ocean during solar maxima and the following 1–2 y. This reduction is associated with westerly wind anomalies at the surface and throughout the equatorial troposphere in the western/central Pacific paired with an eastward shift of convective precipitation that brings more rainfall to the central Pacific. We show that this is initiated by a thermodynamical response of the global hydrological cycle to surface warming, further amplified by atmosphere–ocean coupling, leading to larger positive ocean temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific than expected from simple radiative forcing considerations. The observed solar modulation of the PWC is supported by a set of coupled ocean–atmosphere climate model simulations forced only by SC irradiance variations. We highlight the importance of a muted hydrology mechanism that acts to weaken the PWC. Demonstration of this mechanism acting on the 11-y SC timescale adds confidence in model predictions that the same mechanism also weakens the PWC under increasing greenhouse gas forcing.

The importance of stratospheric initial conditions for winter North Atlantic Oscillation predictability and implications for the signal‐to‐noise paradox

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society John Wiley and Sons, Ltd. 145 (2018) Part A, 131-146

C O'Reilly, A Weisheimer, T Woollings, L Gray, D Macleod

This study investigates the influence of atmospheric initial conditions on winter seasonal forecasts of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Hindcast (or reforecast) experiments – which differ only in their initial conditions – are performed over the period 1960–2009, using prescribed sea surface temperature (SST) and sea‐ice boundary conditions. The first experiment (“ERA‐40/Int IC”) is initialized using the ERA‐40 and ERA‐Interim reanalysis datasets, which assimilate upper‐air, satellite and surface observations; the second experiment (“ERA‐20C IC”) is initialized using the ERA‐20C reanalysis dataset, which assimilates only surface observations. The ensemble mean NAO skill is largest in ERA‐40/Int IC (r = 0.54), which is initialized with the superior reanalysis data. Moreover, ERA‐20C IC did not exhibit significantly more NAO hindcast skill (r = 0.38) than in a third experiment, which was initialized with incorrect (shuffled) initial conditions. The ERA‐40/Interim and ERA‐20C initial conditions differ substantially in the tropical stratosphere, where the quasi‐biennial oscillation (QBO) of zonal winds is not present in ERA‐20C. The QBO hindcasts are highly skilful in ERA‐40/Int IC – albeit with a somewhat weaker equatorial zonal wind amplitude in the lower stratosphere – but are incorrect in ERA‐20C IC, indicating that the QBO is responsible for the additional NAO hindcast skill; this is despite the model exhibiting a relatively weak teleconnection between the QBO and NAO. The influence of the QBO is further demonstrated by regressing out the QBO influence from each of the hindcast experiments, after which the difference in NAO hindcast skill between the experiments is negligible. Whilst ERA‐40/Int IC demonstrates a more skilful NAO hindcast, it appears to have a relatively weak predictable signal; this is the so‐called “signal‐to‐noise paradox” identified in previous studies. Diagnostically amplifying the (weak) QBO–NAO teleconnection increases the ensemble‐mean NAO signal with negligible impact on the NAO hindcast skill, after which the signal‐to‐noise problem seemingly disappears.

The effects of a well-resolved stratosphere on the simulated boreal winter circulation in a climate model

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences American Meteorological Society 76 (2019) 1203-1226

Y Kawatani, K Hamilton, LJ Gray, S Osprey, S Watanabe, Y Yamashita

The impact of stratospheric representation is investigated using the Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate Atmospheric General Circulation Model (MIROC-AGCM) run with different model-lid heights and stratospheric vertical resolutions, but unchanged horizontal resolutions (~1.125°) and subgrid parameterizations. One-hundred-year integrations of the model were conducted using configurations with 34, 42, 72, and 168 vertical layers and model-lid heights of ~27 km (L34), 47 km (L42), 47 km (L72), and 100 km (L168). Analysis of the results focused on the Northern Hemisphere in winter. Compared with the L42 model, the L34 model produces a poorer simulation of the stratospheric Brewer–Dobson circulation (BDC) in the lower stratosphere, with weaker polar downwelling and accompanying cold-pole and westerly jet biases. The westerly bias extends into the troposphere and even to the surface. The tropospheric westerlies and zone of baroclinic wave activity shift northward; surface pressure has negative (positive) biases in the high (mid-) latitudes, with concomitant precipitation shifts. The L72 and L168 models generate a quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) while the L34 and 42 models do not. The L168 model includes the mesosphere, and thus resolves the upper branch of the BDC. The L72 model simulates stronger polar downwelling associated with the BDC than does the L42 model. However, experiments with prescribed nudging of the tropical stratospheric winds suggest differences in the QBO representation cannot account for L72 − L42 differences in the climatological polar night jet structure. The results show that the stratospheric vertical resolution and inclusion of the full middle atmosphere significantly affect tropospheric circulations.

Observed and Simulated Teleconnections Between the Stratospheric Quasi-Biennial Oscillation and Northern Hemisphere Winter Atmospheric Circulation

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 124 (2019) 1219-1232

MB Andrews, JR Knight, AA Scaife, Y Lu, T Wu, LJ Gray, V Schenzinger

©2019 Crown copyright. This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) is the dominant mode of interannual variability in the tropical stratosphere, with easterly and westerly zonal wind regimes alternating over a period of about 28 months. It appears to influence the Northern Hemisphere winter stratospheric polar vortex and atmospheric circulation near the Earth's surface. However, the short observational record makes unequivocal identification of these surface connections challenging. To overcome this, we use a multicentury control simulation of a climate model with a realistic, spontaneously generated QBO to examine teleconnections with extratropical winter surface pressure patterns. Using a 30-hPa index of the QBO, we demonstrate that the observed teleconnection with the Arctic Oscillation (AO) is likely to be real, and a teleconnection with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is probable, but not certain. Simulated QBO-AO teleconnections are robust, but appear weaker than in observations. Despite this, inconsistency with the observational record cannot be formally demonstrated. To assess the robustness of our results, we use an alternative measure of the QBO, which selects QBO phases with westerly or easterly winds extending over a wider range of altitudes than phases selected by the single-level index. We find increased strength and significance for both the AO and NAO responses, and better reproduction of the observed surface teleconnection patterns. Further, this QBO metric reveals that the simulated AO response is indeed likely to be weaker than observed. We conclude that the QBO can potentially provide another source of skill for Northern Hemisphere winter prediction, if its surface teleconnections can be accurately simulated.

Changing response of the North Atlantic/European Winter Climate to the 11-year solar cycle

Environmental Research Letters IOP Publishing 13 (2017) 1-10

H Ma, H Chen, L Gray, L Zhou, X Li, R Wang, S Zhu

Recent studies have presented conflicting results regarding the 11-year solar cycle (SC) influences on winter climate over the North Atlantic/European region. Analyses of only the most recent decades suggest a synchronized North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-like response pattern to the SC. Analyses of long-term climate data sets dating back to the late 19th century, however, suggest a mslp response that lags the SC by 2-4 years in the southern node of the NAO (i.e. Azores region). To understand the conflicting nature and cause of these time dependencies in the SC surface response, the present study employs a lead/lag multi-linear regression technique with a sliding window of 44-years over the period 1751-2016. Results confirm previous analyses, in which the average response for the whole time period features a statistically significant 2-4-year lagged mslp response centered over the Azores region. Overall, the lagged nature of Azores mslp response is generally consistent in time, with stronger and statistically significant SC signals tend to appear in the periods when the SC forcing amplitudes are relatively larger. Individual month analysis indicates the consistent lagged response in December-January-February average arises primarily from early winter months (i.e. December and January), which is associated with ocean feedback processes that involve reinforcement by anomalies from the previous winter. Additional analysis suggests that the synchronous NAO-like response in recent decades arises primarily from the late winter month (February), possibly reflecting a result of strong internal noise.

Preconditioning of Arctic Stratospheric Polar Vortex Shift Events

Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society 31 (2018) 5417-5436

J Huang, W Tian, L Gray, J Zhang, Y Li, J Luo, H Tian

This study examines the preconditioning of events in which the Arctic stratospheric polar vortex shifts toward Eurasia (EUR events), North America (NA events), and the Atlantic (ATL events) using composite analysis. An increase in blocking days over northern Europe and a decrease in blocking days over the Bering Strait favor the movement of the vortex toward Eurasia, while the opposite changes in blocking days over those regions favor the movement of the vortex toward North America. An increase in blocking days over the eastern North Atlantic and a decrease in blocking days over the Bering Strait are conducive to movement of the stratospheric polar vortex toward the Atlantic. These anomalous precursor blocking patterns are interpreted in terms of the anomalous zonal wave-1 or wave-2 planetary wave fluxes into the stratosphere that are known to influence the vortex position and strength. In addition, the polar vortex shift events are further classified into events with small and large polar vortex deformation, since the two types of events are likely to have a different impact at the surface. A significant difference in the zonal wave-2 heat flux into the lower stratosphere exists prior to the two types of events and this is linked to anomalous blocking patterns. This study further defines three types of tropospheric blocking events in which the spatial patterns of blocking frequency anomalies are similar to the blocking patterns prior to EUR, NA, and ATL events, respectively, and our reanalysis reveals that the polar vortex is indeed more likely to shift toward Eurasia, North America, and the Atlantic in the presence of the above three defined tropospheric blocking events. These shifts of the polar vortex toward Eurasia, North America, and the Atlantic lead to statistically significant negative height anomalies near the tropopause and corresponding surface cooling anomalies over these three regions.

Recent observed changes in the North Atlantic climate system with a focus on 2005-2016

International Journal of Climatology John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 38 (2018) 5050-5076

J Robson, A Archibald, F Cooper, M Christensen, L Grey, NP Holliday, C Macintosh, M McMillan, B Moat, K Carslaw, O Embury, D Feltham, D Grosvenor, S Josey, B King, A Lewis, GD McCarthy, C Merchant, AL New, C O'Reilly, S Osprey, K Read, A Scaife, A Shepherd

Major changes are occurring across the North Atlantic climate system, including in the atmosphere, ocean and cryosphere, and many observed changes are unprecedented in instrumental records. As the changes in the North Atlantic directly affect the climate and air quality of the surrounding continents, it is important to fully understand how and why the changes are taking place, not least to predict how the region will change in the future. To this end, this article characterizes the recent observed changes in the North Atlantic region, especially in the period 2005–2016, across many different aspects of the system including: atmospheric circulation; atmospheric composition; clouds and aerosols; ocean circulation and properties; and the cryosphere. Recent changes include: an increase in the speed of the North Atlantic jet stream in winter; a southward shift in the North Atlantic jet stream in summer, associated with a weakening summer North Atlantic Oscillation; increases in ozone and methane; increases in net absorbed radiation in the mid‐latitude western Atlantic, linked to an increase in the abundance of high level clouds and a reduction in low level clouds; cooling of sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic subpolar gyre, concomitant with increases in the western subtropical gyre, and a decline in the Atlantic Ocean's overturning circulation; a decline in Atlantic sector Arctic sea ice and rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. There are many interactions between these changes, but these interactions are poorly understood. This article concludes by highlighting some of the key outstanding questions.

Atlantic Multidecadal Variability and the UK ACSIS Program


RT Sutton, GD McCarthy, J Robson, B Sinha, AT Archibald, LJ Gray

Overview of experiment design and comparison of models participating in phase 1 of the SPARC Quasi-Biennial Oscillation initiative (QBOi)

Geoscientific Model Development Copernicus Publications 11 (2018) 1009-1032

N Butchart, J Anstey, K Hamilton, S Osprey, C McLandress, A Bushell, Y Kawatani, Y-H Kim, F Lott, J Scinocca, T Stockdale, M Andrews, O Bellprat, P Braesicke, C Cagnazzo, C-C Chen, H-Y Chun, M Dobrynin, R Garcia, J Garcia-Serrano, L Gray, L Holt, T Kerzenmacher, H Naoe, H Pohlmann

The Stratosphere–troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate (SPARC) Quasi-Biennial Oscillation initiative (QBOi) aims to improve the fidelity of tropical stratospheric variability in general circulation and Earth system models by conducting coordinated numerical experiments and analysis. In the equatorial stratosphere, the QBO is the most conspicuous mode of variability. Five coordinated experiments have therefore been designed to (i) evaluate and compare the verisimilitude of modelled QBOs under present-day conditions, (ii) identify robustness (or alternatively the spread and uncertainty) in the simulated QBO response to commonly imposed changes in model climate forcings (e.g. a doubling of CO2 amounts), and (iii) examine model dependence of QBO predictability. This paper documents these experiments and the recommended output diagnostics. The rationale behind the experimental design and choice of diagnostics is presented. To facilitate scientific interpretation of the results in other planned QBOi studies, consistent descriptions of the models performing each experiment set are given, with those aspects particularly relevant for simulating the QBO tabulated for easy comparison.

Preindustrial Control Simulations With HadGEM3-GC3.1 for CMIP6


MB Menary, T Kuhlbrodt, J Ridley, MB Andrews, OB Dimdore-Miles, J Deshayes, R Eade, L Gray, S Ineson, J Mignot, CD Roberts, J Robson, RA Wood, P Xavier

Surface impacts of the quasi biennial oscillation

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics European Geosciences Union 18 (2018) 8227–8247-

L Gray, JA Anstey, Y Kawatani, H Lu, S Osprey, V Schenzinger

Teleconnections between the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO) and the Northern Hemisphere zonally averaged zonal winds, mean sea level pressure (mslp) and tropical precipitation are explored. The standard approach that defines the QBO using the equatorial zonal winds at a single pressure level is compared with the empirical orthogonal function approach that characterizes the vertical profile of the equatorial winds. Results are interpreted in terms of three potential routes of influence, referred to as the tropical, subtropical and polar routes. A novel technique is introduced to separate responses via the polar route that are associated with the stratospheric polar vortex, from the other two routes. A previously reported mslp response in January, with a pattern that resembles the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation under QBO westerly conditions, is confirmed and found to be primarily associated with a QBO modulation of the stratospheric polar vortex. This mid-winter response is relatively insensitive to the exact height of the maximum QBO westerlies and a maximum positive response occurs with westerlies over a relatively deep range between 10 and 70 hPa. Two additional mslp responses are reported, in early winter (December) and late winter (February/March). In contrast to the January response the early and late winter responses show maximum sensitivity to the QBO winds at  ∼  20 and  ∼  70 hPa respectively, but are relatively insensitive to the QBO winds in between ( ∼  50 hPa). The late winter response is centred over the North Pacific and is associated with QBO influence from the lowermost stratosphere at tropical/subtropical latitudes in the Pacific sector. The early winter response consists of anomalies over both the North Pacific and Europe, but the mechanism for this response is unclear. Increased precipitation occurs over the tropical western Pacific under westerly QBO conditions, particularly during boreal summer, with maximum sensitivity to the QBO winds at 70 hPa. The band of precipitation across the Pacific associated with the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) shifts southward under QBO westerly conditions. The empirical orthogonal function (EOF)-based analysis suggests that this ITCZ precipitation response may be particularly sensitive to the vertical wind shear in the vicinity of 70 hPa and hence the tropical tropopause temperatures.

Stratospheric Response to the 11-Yr Solar Cycle: Breaking Planetary Waves, Internal Reflection, and Resonance

JOURNAL OF CLIMATE 30 (2017) 7169-7190

H Lu, LJ Gray, IP White, TJ Bracegirdle

Results from the SPARC Reanalysis Intercomparison Project (S-RIP) during 2013-2017


M Fujiwara, GL Manney, LJ Gray, S Tegtmeier

Report on the SPARC QBO Workshop: The QBO and its Global Influence - Past, Present and Future

Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate (2017) 33-41

J Anstey, S Osprey, N Butchart, K Hamilton, L Gray, M Baldwin

<p>There is no known atmospheric phenomenon with a longer horizon of predictability than the quasibiennial oscillation (QBO) of tropical stratospheric circulation. With a mean period of about 28 months, the QBO phase can routinely be predicted at least a year in advance. This predictability arises from internal atmospheric dynamics, rather than from external forcings with long timescales, and it offers the tantalizing prospect of improved predictions for any phenomena influenced by the QBO. Observed QBO teleconnections include an apparent QBO influence on the stratospheric winter polar vortices in both hemispheres, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), and the North-Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Yet the degree to which such teleconnections are real, robust, and sufficiently strong to provide useful predictive skill remains an important topic of research. Utilizing and understanding these linkages will require atmospheric models that adequately represent both the QBO and the mechanisms by which it influences other aspects of the general circulation, such as tropical deep convection.</p> <br/> <p>The 2016 QBO workshop in Oxford aimed to explore these themes, and to build on the outcomes of the first QBO workshop, held in March 2015 in Victoria, BC, Canada (as reported in SPARC Newsletter No. 45). This earlier workshop was the kick-off meeting of the SPARC QBOi (QBO Initiative) activity, and its key outcome was to plan a series of coordinated Atmosphere General Circulation Model (AGCM) experiments (the “phase-one” QBOi experiments). These experiments provide a multi-model dataset that can be used to investigate the aforementioned themes. While the focus of the Victoria meeting was primarily on the QBO itself, the Oxford workshop has broadened the scope of the QBOi activity to encompass QBO impacts. Its primary outcome is a planned set of core papers analysing the phaseone QBOi experiments,</p>

The 11-year solar cycle - Climate Influencer.

Met Office Academic Partnership Posters and Presentations Session Met Office (2017)

M Brown, L Gray

The 11-year solar cycle in the sun’s output impacts winter surface climate of Northern Europe. I am using model experiments to try to understand this impact and improve predictions of winter climate.

Downward wave reflection as a mechanism for the stratosphere–troposphere response to the 11-yr solar cycle

Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society 30 (2017) 2395-2414

H Lu, AA Scaife, GJ Marshall, J Turner, L Gray

The effects of solar activity on the stratospheric waveguides and downward reflection of planetary waves during NH early to midwinter are examined. Under high solar (HS) conditions, enhanced westerly winds in the subtropical upper stratosphere and the associated changes in the zonal wind curvature led to an altered waveguide geometry across the winter period in the upper stratosphere. In particular, the condition for barotropic instability was more frequently met at 1 hPa near the polar-night jet centered at about 55°N. In early winter, the corresponding change in wave forcing was characterized by a vertical dipole pattern of the Eliassen–Palm (E–P) flux divergent anomalies in the high-latitude upper stratosphere accompanied by poleward E–P flux anomalies. These wave forcing anomalies corresponded with negative vertical shear of zonal mean winds and the formation of a vertical reflecting surface. Enhanced downward E–P flux anomalies appeared below the negative shear zone; they coincided with more frequent occurrence of negative daily heat fluxes and were associated with eastward acceleration and downward group velocity. These downward-reflected wave anomalies had a detectable effect on the vertical structure of planetary waves during November–January. The associated changes in tropospheric geopotential height contributed to a more positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation in January and February. These results suggest that downward reflection may act as a “top down” pathway by which the effects of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the upper stratosphere can be transmitted to the troposphere.

Introduction to the SPARC Reanalysis Intercomparison Project (S-RIP) and overview of the reanalysis systems


M Fujiwara, JS Wright, GL Manney, LJ Gray, J Anstey, T Birner, S Davis, EP Gerber, VL Harvey, MI Hegglin, CR Homeyer, JA Knox, K Kruger, A Lambert, CS Long, P Martineau, A Molod, BM Monge-Sanz, ML Santee, S Tegtmeier, S Chabrillat, DGH Tan, DR Jackson, S Polavarapu, GP Compo, R Dragani, W Ebisuzaki, Y Harada, C Kobayashi, W McCarty, K Onogi, S Pawson, A Simmons, K Wargan, JS Whitaker, C-Z Zou

Solar influences on climate over the Atlantic / European sector

AIP Conference Proceedings AIP Publishing 1810 (2017)

L Gray, W Ball, S Misios

There is growing evidence that variability associated with the 11-year solar cycle has an impact at the Earth’s surface and influences its weather and climate. Although the direct response to the Sun’s variability is extremely small, a number of different mechanisms have been suggested that could amplify the signal, resulting in regional signals that are much larger than expected. In this paper the observed solar cycle signal at the Earth’s surface is described, together with proposed mechanisms that involve modulation via the total incoming solar irradiance and via modulation of the ultra-violet part of the solar spectrum that influences ozone production in the stratosphere.

Defining metrics of the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation in global climate models

Geoscientific Model Development Discussions Copernicus Publications (2016)

V Schenzinger, S Osprey, L Gray, N Butchart

As the dominant mode of variability in the tropical stratosphere, the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) has been subject to extensive research. Though there is a well developed theory of this phenomenon being forced by wave-mean flow interaction, simulating the QBO adequately in global climate models (GCMs) still remains difficult. This paper presents a set of metrics to characterise the QBO using a number of different reanalysis datasets and the FU Berlin radiosonde observation dataset. The same metrics are then calculated from CMIP5 and CCMVal-2 intercomparison project simulations which included a representation of QBO like behaviour to evaluate which aspects of the QBO are well captured by the models and which ones remain a challenge for future model development.

Eleven-year solar cycle signal in the NAO and Atlantic/European blocking

Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (2016)

L Gray, T Woollings, M Andrews, J Knight

© 2016 The Authors. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society published by John Wiley &amp; Sons Ltd on behalf of the Royal Meteorological Society.The 11-year solar cycle signal in December–January–February (DJF) averaged mean-sea-level pressure (SLP) and Atlantic/European blocking frequency is examined using multilinear regression with indices to represent variability associated with the solar cycle, volcanic eruptions, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Results from a previous 11-year solar cycle signal study of the period 1870–2010 (140 years; ∼13 solar cycles) that suggested a 3–4 year lagged signal in SLP over the Atlantic are confirmed by analysis of a much longer reconstructed dataset for the period 1660–2010 (350 years; ∼32 solar cycles). Apparent discrepancies between earlier studies are resolved and stem primarily from the lagged nature of the response and differences between early- and late-winter responses. Analysis of the separate winter months provide supporting evidence for two mechanisms of influence, one operating via the atmosphere that maximises in late winter at 0–2 year lags and one via the mixed-layer ocean that maximises in early winter at 3–4 year lags. Corresponding analysis of DJF-averaged Atlantic/European blocking frequency shows a highly statistically significant signal at ∼1-year lag that originates primarily from the late winter response. The 11-year solar signal in DJF blocking frequency is compared with other known influences from ENSO and the AMO and found to be as large in amplitude and have a larger region of statistical significance.