Volume 80 (2002) Issue 4B Pages 911-924
The tropical tropopause layer (TTL) is a transition region between the troposphere and the stratosphere. In this study the vertical extent of the TTL is diagnosed from radiosonde and ozonesonde profiles in the tropics and a climatology of this layer is presented. The radiative balance in the TTL is also characterized. The TTL is locally defined as extending from the level of the lapse rate minimum at 10-12 km to the cold point tropopause (CPT) at 16-17 km. The minimum in lapse rate represents the level of maximum convective impact on upper tropospheric temperatures, which is found to closely correspond to a minimum in ozone. Variations in this level are correlated with convective activity as measured by satellite brightness temperatures and Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR). At the cold point, the TTL height is nearly uniform throughout the tropics, and has a pronounced annual cycle. There are regional variations in the altitude of the lower boundary of the TTL. Interannual variations of the TTL result from changes in the large scale organization of convective activity, such as from the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Over the last 40 years, records indicate an increase (200-400 m) in the height of both the cold point tropopause and the level of minimum lapse rate. To better understand vertical transport in the TTL, the clear sky radiative heating rate is diagnosed using a sophisticated radiative transfer scheme. The level of zero radiative heating occurs roughly 1 km below the CPT, implying that convection needs to loft air 4-5 km above the base of the TTL if the air is to eventually enter the stratosphere.