- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- 22512 to 22517
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Abstract. Future changes in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are uncertain, both because future projections differ between climate models and because the large internal variability of ENSO clouds the diagnosis of forced changes in observations and individual climate model simulations. By leveraging 14 single model initial-condition large ensembles (SMILEs), we robustly isolate the time-evolving response of ENSO sea surface temperature (SST) variability to anthropogenic forcing from internal variability in each SMILE. We find nonlinear changes in time in many models and considerable inter-model differences in projected changes in ENSO and the mean-state tropical Pacific zonal SST gradient. We demonstrate a linear relationship between the change in ENSO SST variability and the tropical Pacific zonal SST gradient, although forced changes in the tropical Pacific SST gradient often occur later in the 21st century than changes in ENSO SST variability, which can lead to departures from the linear relationship. Single-forcing SMILEs show a potential contribution of anthropogenic forcing (aerosols and greenhouse gases) to historical changes in ENSO SST variability, while the observed historical strengthening of the tropical Pacific SST gradient sits on the edge of the model spread for those models for which single-forcing SMILEs are available. Our results highlight the value of SMILEs for investigating time-dependent forced responses and inter-model differences in ENSO projections. The nonlinear changes in ENSO SST variability found in many models demonstrate the importance of characterizing this time-dependent behavior, as it implies that ENSO impacts may vary dramatically throughout the 21st century.more » « less
The temporal evolution of El Niño and La Niña varies greatly from event to event. To understand the dynamical processes controlling the duration of El Niño and La Niña events, a suite of observational data and a long control simulation of the Community Earth System Model, version 1, are analyzed. Both observational and model analyses show that the duration of El Niño is strongly affected by the timing of onset. El Niño events that develop early tend to terminate quickly after the mature phase because of the early arrival of delayed negative oceanic feedback and fast adjustments of the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the tropical Pacific Ocean warming. The duration of La Niña events is, on the other hand, strongly influenced by the amplitude of preceding warm events. La Niña events preceded by a strong warm event tend to persist into the second year because of large initial discharge of the equatorial oceanic heat content and delayed adjustments of the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the tropical Pacific cooling. For both El Niño and La Niña, the interbasin sea surface temperature (SST) adjustments reduce the anomalous SST gradient toward the tropical Pacific and weaken surface wind anomalies over the western equatorial Pacific, hastening the event termination. Other factors external to the dynamics of El Niño–Southern Oscillation, such as coupled variability in the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans and atmospheric variability over the North Pacific, also contribute to the diversity of event duration.more » « less
El Niño‐Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the strongest mode of interannual climate variability, and its predicted response to anthropogenic climate change remains unclear. Determining ENSO's sensitivity to climatic mean state and the strength of positive and negative feedbacks, notably the thermocline feedback, will help constrain its future behavior. To this end, we collected ENSO proxy data from the early and mid‐Pliocene, a time during which tropical Pacific zonal and vertical temperature gradients were much lower than today. We found that El Niño events had a reduced amplitude throughout the early Pliocene, compared to the late Holocene. By the mid‐Pliocene, El Niño amplitude was variable, sometimes reduced and sometimes similar to the late Holocene. This trend in Pliocene ENSO amplitude mirrors the long‐term strengthening of zonal and vertical temperature gradients and verifies model results showing dampened ENSO under reduced gradients due to a weaker thermocline feedback.
The Madden‐Julian Oscillation (MJO) plays an important role in El Niño dynamics in connection with westerly wind bursts (WWBs) that occur in the equatorial Pacific; however, our understanding of the relationship between these climate phenomena remains incomplete. Here, we use a Lagrangian Atmospheric Model (LAM) to examine the response of the MJO and resulting WWBs to sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies similar to those observed during the onset and development of El Niño. We find that when a localized SST anomaly (≤1°C) is imposed in the western‐central equatorial Pacific between December and April (mimicking El Niño onset), the MJO convective envelope shifts from the southern hemisphere toward the equator. When an SST anomaly (≤1.5°C) is imposed in the central‐eastern equatorial Pacific between May and November (mimicking El Niño development), the MJO weakens in the northwestern Pacific, but strengthens in the central equatorial Pacific. In both experiments, the ensuing changes enhance MJO activity along the equator, facilitating WWBs.
Abstract The influence of eastern tropical Pacific (EPAC; 10°S–10°N, 140°–80°W) wind anomalies on El Niño is investigated using observations and model experiments. Extreme and moderate El Niños exhibit contrasting anomalous wind patterns in the EPAC during the peak and decay phases: westerly wind anomalies during extreme El Niño and southeasterly (southwesterly) wind anomalies south (north) of the equator during moderate El Niño. Experiments with an ocean general circulation model indicate that for extreme El Niño, the eastward intrusion of westerly wind anomalies contributes to the prolonged positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific throughout boreal spring by weakened upwelling and horizontal advection. For moderate El Niño, by contrast, both the meridional and zonal anomalous winds over the EPAC are important in the rapid (slow) SST cooling south (north) of the equator through advection and wind–evaporation–SST feedback. Atmospheric model experiments confirm that these EPAC anomalous winds are primarily forced by tropical SST anomalies. The interplay between wind and SST anomalies suggests positive air–sea feedbacks over EPAC during the decay phase of El Niño. Ocean model results show that the frequency of extreme El Niño increases when EPAC wind anomalies are removed, suggesting the importance of EPAC winds for El Niño diversity.more » « less