The recent variability of the tropopause temperature and the tropopause inversion layer (TIL) are investigated with Global Positioning System Radio Occultation data and simulations with the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). Over the past decade (2001–2011) the data show an increase of 0.8 K in the tropopause temperature and a decrease of 0.4 K in the strength of the tropopause inversion layer in the tropics, meaning that the vertical temperature gradient has declined, and therefore that the stability above the tropopause has weakened. WACCM simulations with finer vertical resolution show a more realistic TIL structure and variability. Model simulations show that the increased tropopause temperature and the weaker tropopause inversion layer are related to weakened upwelling in the tropics. Such changes in the thermal structure of the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere may have important implications for climate, such as a possible rise in water vapor in the lower stratosphere.
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