The Brewer-Dobson circulation inferred from ERA-Interim

William J M Seviour, Neal Butchart, Steven C. Hardiman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


The transformed Eulerian mean residual circulation is calculated from ERA-Interim for 1989-2009. Known as the Brewer-Dobson circulation, this measures the tropical upwelling of mass from troposphere to stratosphere, the mean meridional mass transport in the stratosphere and the downwelling of mass in the Extratropics. Major features of the Brewer-Dobson circulation, including the seasonal migration of the tropical upwelling toward the summer pole, are well represented. In the tropical lower stratosphere vertical velocities are less noisy than in other reanalyses, though significant tidal variations demonstrate the need for 6-hourly data. Throughout the year tropical lower stratospheric ascent rates are a minimum at the Equator and strongest in the Northern Hemisphere. In each hemisphere the maximum tropical ascent occurs during summer, whereas the strongest circulation and maximum in extratropical descent occur in the winter hemisphere. At 70 hPa the annual mean upwelling mass flux is 5.9 × 10 9 kg s -1, with the zonal drag from resolved waves and parametrized orographic gravity wave drag (OGWD) providing 70% and 4% of the driving, respectively. Hence it is concluded that the OGWD probably underestimates the momentum deposited above 70 hPa in addition to there being an absence of drag from non-orographic gravity waves. A statistically significant trend of -5% per decade in the upwelling mass flux is considered unreliable because it is inconsistent with the negative temperature trend, assuming a mainly adiabatic temperature response at this level (70 hPa) to the changes in upwelling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-888
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number665
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Brewer-Dobson circulation
  • ERA-Interim
  • Stratosphere


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