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Title: El Niño–Like Physical and Biogeochemical Ocean Response to Tropical Eruptions

The oceanic response to recent tropical eruptions is examined in Large Ensemble (LE) experiments from two fully coupled global climate models, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Earth System Model (ESM2M), each forced by a distinct volcanic forcing dataset. Following the simulated eruptions of Agung, El Chichón, and Pinatubo, the ocean loses heat and gains oxygen and carbon, in general agreement with available observations. In both models, substantial global surface cooling is accompanied by El Niño–like equatorial Pacific surface warming a year after the volcanic forcing peaks. A mechanistic analysis of the CESM and ESM2M responses to Pinatubo identifies remote wind forcing from the western Pacific as a major driver of this El Niño–like response. Following eruption, faster cooling over the Maritime Continent than adjacent oceans suppresses convection and leads to persistent westerly wind anomalies over the western tropical Pacific. These wind anomalies excite equatorial downwelling Kelvin waves and the upwelling of warm subsurface anomalies in the eastern Pacific, promoting the development of El Niño conditions through Bjerknes feedbacks a year after eruption. This El Niño–like response drives further ocean heat loss through enhanced equatorial cloud albedo, and dominates global carbon uptake as upwelling more » of carbon-rich waters is suppressed in the tropical Pacific. Oxygen uptake occurs primarily at high latitudes, where surface cooling intensifies the ventilation of subtropical thermocline waters. These volcanically forced ocean responses are large enough to contribute to the observed decadal variability in oceanic heat, carbon, and oxygen.

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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 2627-2649
American Meteorological Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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