International Network for QBO Research (QBOnet)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


The atmosphere changes on time scales from seconds (or less) through to years. An example of the former are leaves swirling about the ground within a dust-devil, while an example of the latter is the quasibiennial oscillation (QBO) which occurs over the equator high up in the stratosphere. The QBO is seen as a slow meander of winds: from easterly to westerly to easterly over a time scale of about 2.5 years. This 'oscillation' is quite regular and so therefore is predictable out from months through to years. These winds have also been linked with weather events in the high latitude stratosphere during winter, and also with weather regimes in the North Atlantic and Europe. It is this combination of potential predictability and the association with weather which can affect people, businesses and ultimately economies which makes knowing more about these stratospheric winds desirable.

However, it has been difficult to get this phenomenon reproduced in global climate models. We know that to get these winds in models one needs a good deal of (vertical) resolution. Perhaps better than 600-800m vertical resolution is needed. In most GCMs with a QBO this is the case, but why? We also know that there needs to be waves sloshing about, either ones that can be 'seen' in the models, or wave effects which are inferred by parameterisations. Get the right mix of waves and you can get a QBO. Get the wrong mix and you don't. Again we do not know entirely why. Furthermore, we also know convection bubbling up over the tropics and the slow migration of air upwards and out to the poles also has a big impact of resolving the QBO. All of these factors need to be constrained in some way to get a QBO. The trouble is that these factors are invariably different in different climate models. It is for this reason that getting a regular QBO in a climate model is so hard.

This project is interested in exploring the sensitivity of the QBO to changes in resolution, diffusion and physics processes in lots of climate models and in reanalyses (models used with observations). To achieve this, we are seeking to bring together all the main modelling centres around the world and all the main researchers interested in the QBO to explore more robust ways of modelling this phenomena and looking for commonalities and differences in reanalyses. We hope that by doing this, we may get more modelling centres interested and thereby improve the number of models which can reproduce the QBO. We also hope that we can get a better understanding of those impacts seen in the North-Atlantic and around Europe and these may affect our seasonal predictions.

The primary objective of QBOnet is to facilitate major advances in our understanding and modelling of the QBO by galvanizing international collaboration amongst researchers that are actively working on the QBO. Secondary objectives include:

(1) Establish the methods and experiments required to most efficiently compare dominant processes involved in maintaining the QBO in different models and how they are modified by resolution, numerical representation and physics parameterisation.
(2) Facilitate (1) by way of targeted visits by the PI and researchers with project partners and through a 3-4 day Workshop
(3) Setup and promote a shared computing resource for both the QBOi and S-RIP QBO projects on the JASMIN facility

Planned Impact

The principal impact of this project will be on operational modelling climate communities, primarily the UK Met Office. Improvements in the model representation of the quasibiennial oscillation (QBO) resulting from the project will be directly implemented into the Met Office seasonal to decadal scale forecast model. Results of the project will also filter through to regional climate modelling, and will help inform international modelling groups on the model configuration for the next Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Results from the project will also feed to the WCRP SPARC Project, and in particular the Dynamical Variability (DYNVAR) and Gravity Wave Activities and the Data assimilation Working Group. Another organisation to benefit from QBOnet, would be the JSC/CAS Working Group for Numerical Experimentation (WGNE), whose role is to foster coordinated efforts to improve climate models including experiments, so as to diagnose and resolve model error. The QBOnet workshop to be held in year two will showcase the current state-of-the-art modelling of the QBO, and explore improvements to such modelling.

A dedicated website will be set up for this project, with the intent of providing a central location for the understanding of tropical stratosphere variability on climate, with a specific focus on global climate models. The website will be kept up-to-date in near real-time to inform the general public of current publicised results. The latter will also include a blog, maintained by the Researcher Co-Is.


10 25 50
Description Climate services, climate predictability & inter-regional linkages
Amount £3,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P006779/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Department Belmont Forum
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 05/2016 
End 05/2020
Description QBOi 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) activity as part of the Stratosphere - troposphere Processes and their Relation to Climate (SPARC). It comprises all major climate centres that include a fully resolved stratosphere and simulation of the Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO).
Collaborator Contribution Dr Scott Osprey (Oxford) leads this activity jointly with Dr. Neal Butchart (UK Met Office) and Dr Kevin Hamilton (Univ Hawaii).
Impact Agreed model simulations and refereed papers
Start Year 2015
Description Joint SPARC Dynamics and Observations Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In 2017 a joint meeting organised by three groups within the World Climate Research Programme's (WCRP) Stratosphere-Troposphere Processes and their Role in Climate (SPARC) project was held in Kyoto to tackle outstanding questions of tropical teleconnections. This meeting attracted 74 researchers from 13 countries and focussed on identifying tropical teleconnections linking the stratosphere and climate phenomena elsewhere. The workshop was co-organised by members/partners of the Project and included partial travel funding for some project members and partners. At the workshop a community consultation exercise was undertaken via breakout groups, resulting in community agreement of future planned work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
Description Podcast: An atmospheric pacemaker skips a beat, a religious edict that spawned fat chickens, and knocking out the 'sixth sense' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Science Magazine podcast highlighting a study in Science reporting a disruption to the atmospheric QBO. A member of the Team participated in the podcast which also showcased other interesting science stories appearing in the weekly issue. The news coverage resulted in a number of enquiries requesting further information about the study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description QBO Modelling and Reanalysis Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A workshop was organised bringing together researchers and modelling groups with an active research interest in the the QBO. Around 32 people attended the workshop which involved plenary talks, posters and breakout group discussion. The latter resulted in community agreement on a set of experiments to be run by modelling centres. The workshop report was published in the SPARC Newsletter ( and an experiment and data protocol was published in the journal Geoscientific Model Development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015