The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) is a cycle of zonal wind in the equatorial stratosphere with a period that varies between 24 and 30 months. This oscillation is a product of downward propagating alternating wind regimes. The current method of monitoring this oscillation is through an index, calculated by the zonal wind anomaly at 30hPa averaged along the equator. This method excludes information on the vertical structure of winds in the stratosphere, and presents the QBO as a one-dimensional temporal oscillation.
Presented here is a new framework for monitoring the QBO. This framework incorporates both the oscillation in time and in space. The two leading principle components (PCs) of equatorial stratospheric zonal winds are calculated from NCEP/NCAR reanalysis monthly mean data. These PCs are then standardized and used as X and Y coordinates in a 2-dimensional phase space. A phase angle can then be calculated from the coordinates, forming a new index that is much more representative of the state of the stratosphere. The results show a very clear pattern of zonal wind and temperature regimes in the stratosphere.
Furthermore, from each of these phases, there are physical connections to characteristics in the troposphere on a monthly to seasonal basis. These include the distribution of tropical cyclone activity, the El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the extratropical pattern. This new framework for monitoring the QBO is shown to be much more applicable to seasonal forecasting.
Compare the EOF-constructed oscillation to a 52-month reanalysis segment