Extreme stratospheric wave activity has been suggested to be connected to surface temperature anomalies, but some key processes are not well understood. Using observations, we show that the stratospheric events featuring weaker‐than‐normal wave activity are associated with increased North American (NA) cold extreme risks before and near the event onset, accompanied by less frequent atmospheric river (AR) events on the west coast of the United States. Strong stratospheric wave events, on the other hand, exhibit a tropospheric weather regime transition. They are preceded by NA warm anomalies and increased AR frequency over the west coast, followed by increased risks of NA cold extremes and north‐shifted ARs over the Atlantic. Moreover, these links between the stratosphere and troposphere are attributed to the vertical structure of wave coupling. Weak wave events show a wave structure of westward tilt with increasing altitudes, while strong wave events feature a shift from westward tilt to eastward tilt during their life cycle. This wave phase shift indicates vertical wave coupling and likely regional planetary wave reflection. Further examinations of CMIP6 models show that models with a degraded representation of stratospheric wave structure exhibit biases in the troposphere during strong wave events. Specifically, models with a stratospheric ridge weaker than the reanalysis exhibit a weaker tropospheric signal. Our findings suggest that the vertical coupling of extreme stratospheric wave activity should be evaluated in the model representation of stratosphere‐troposphere coupling.
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