Climatological characteristics of the tropical tropopause as revealed by radiosondes


  • Dian J. Seidel,

  • Rebecca J. Ross,

  • James K. Angell,

  • George C. Reid


A temporally and spatially comprehensive depiction of the tropical tropopause is presented, based on radiosonde data from 83 stations. Climatological statistics for 1961–1990 are computed for three levels: the conventional lapse-rate tropopause (LRT), the cold-point tropopause (CPT), and the 100 hPa level. Mean values and seasonal and interannual variations of temperature, pressure, height, potential temperature, and water vapor saturation mixing ratio at these levels are compared. The tropopause is higher, colder, and at lower pressure in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) than in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) in NH winter. This pattern reverses in NH summer, except that the tropopause remains colder in the NH than in the SH. The climatological locations of minimum tropopause temperature differ from those of maximum height and minimum pressure: In NH winter the tropopause is coldest over the western tropical Pacific warm pool region, but it is highest and at lowest pressure over the western Atlantic. Correlations of interannual anomalies in zonal-mean characteristics reveal that the height of the tropopause reflects the temperature of the underlying troposphere. Tropopause temperature, on the other hand, shows little association with tropospheric characteristics but is significantly correlated with the temperature and pressure of the lower stratosphere. The 100 hPa level is a poor surrogate for the tropical tropopause. Changes in radiosonde instrumentation limit the potential for detecting tropopause trends. However, the following (nonmonotonic) trends in the tropopause in the deep tropics during 1978–1997 seem robust: an increase in height of about 20 m decade−1, a decrease in pressure of about 0.5 hPa decade−1, a cooling of about 0.5 K decade−1, little change in potential temperature, and a decrease in saturation volume mixing ratio of about 0.3 ppmv decade−1.