The structure and dynamics of stratospheric northern annular mode (SNAM) events in CMIP5 simulations are studied, emphasizing (i) stratosphere–troposphere coupling and (ii) disparities between high-top (HT) and low-top (LT) models. Compared to HT models, LT models generally underrepresent SNAM amplitude in stratosphere, consistent with weaker polar vortex variability, as demonstrated by Charlton-Perez et al. Interestingly, however, this difference does not carry over to the associated zonal-mean SNAM signature in troposphere, which closely resembles observations in both HT and LT models. Nonetheless, a regional analysis illustrates that both HT and LT models exhibit anomalously weak and eastward shifted (compared to observations) storm track and sea level pressure anomaly patterns in association with SNAM events.
Dynamical analyses of stratosphere–troposphere coupling are performed to further examine the distinction between HT and LT models. Variability in stratospheric planetary wave activity is reduced in LT models despite robust concomitant tropospheric variability. A meridional heat flux analysis indicates relatively weak vertical Rossby wave coupling in LT models consistent with the excessive damping events discussed by Shaw et al. Eliassen–Palm flux cross sections reveal that Rossby wave propagation is anomalously weak above the tropopause in LT models, suggesting that weak polar vortex variability in LT models is due, at least in part, to the inability of tropospheric planetary wave activity to enter the stratosphere. Although the results are consistent with anomalously weak vertical dynamical coupling in LT models during SNAM events, there is little impact upon attendant tropospheric variability. The physical reason behind this apparent paradox represents an important topic for future study.