A global perspective on atmospheric blocking using GPS radio occultation – one decade of observations
Atmospheric blocking represents a weather pattern where a stationary high-pressure system weakens or reverses the climatological westerly flow at mid-latitudes for up to several weeks. It is closely connected to strong anomalies in key atmospheric variables such as geopotential height, temperature, and humidity. Here we provide, for the first time, a comprehensive, global perspective on atmospheric blocking and related impacts by using an observation-based data set from Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) from 2006 to 2016. The main blocking regions in both hemispheres and seasonal variations are found to be represented well in RO data. The effect of blocking on vertically resolved temperature and humidity anomalies in the troposphere and lower stratosphere is investigated for blocking regions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, respectively. We find a statistically significant correlation of blocking with positive temperature anomalies, exceeding 3 K in the troposphere, and a reversal above the tropopause with negative temperature anomalies below −3 K in the lower stratosphere. Specific humidity is positively correlated with temperature throughout the troposphere with larger anomalies revealed in the Southern Hemisphere. At the eastern and equatorward side of the investigated blocking regions, a band of tropospheric cold anomalies reveals advection of cold air by anticyclonic motion around blocking highs, which is less distinct in the Southern Hemisphere due to stronger zonal flow. We find GPS RO to be a promising new data set for blocking research that gives insight into the vertical atmospheric structure, especially in light of the expected increase in data coverage that future missions will provide.