skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2023

Title: A multiscale model for El Niño complexity
Abstract El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) exhibits diverse characteristics in spatial pattern, peak intensity, and temporal evolution. Here we develop a three-region multiscale stochastic model to show that the observed ENSO complexity can be explained by combining intraseasonal, interannual, and decadal processes. The model starts with a deterministic three-region system for the interannual variabilities. Then two stochastic processes of the intraseasonal and decadal variation are incorporated. The model can reproduce not only the general properties of the observed ENSO events, but also the complexity in patterns (e.g., Central Pacific vs. Eastern Pacific events), intensity (e.g., 10–20 year reoccurrence of extreme El Niños), and temporal evolution (e.g., more multi-year La Niñas than multi-year El Niños). While conventional conceptual models were typically used to understand the dynamics behind the common properties of ENSO, this model offers a powerful tool to understand and predict ENSO complexity that challenges our understanding of the twenty-first century ENSO.
; ;
Award ID(s):
2109539 1833075
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
npj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    To better understand the diverse temporal evolutions of observed El Niño‒Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, which are characterized as single- or multi-year, this study examines similar events in a 2200-year-long integration of Community Earth System Model, version 1. Results show that selective activation of inter- and intra-basin climate interactions (together, pantropical climate interactions) controls ENSO’s evolution pattern. When ENSO preferentially activates inter-basin interactions with tropical Indian and/or Atlantic Oceans, it introduces negative feedbacks into the ENSO phase, resulting in single-year evolution. When ENSO preferentially activates intra-basin interactions with subtropical North Pacific, it causes positive feedbacks, producing multi-year evolution. Three key factors (developing-season intensity, pre-onset Pacific condition, and maximum zonal location) and their thresholds, which determine whether inter- or intra-basin interactions are activated and whether an event will become a single- or multi-year event, are identified. These findings offer a way to predict ENSO’s evolution pattern by incorporating the controlling role of pantropical climate interactions.

  2. Abstract

    Using hindcasts produced by a coupled climate model, this study evaluates whether the model can forecast the observed spatiotemporal complexity in the El Niño−Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during the period 1982−2011: the eastern Pacific (EP), central Pacific‐I (CP‐I) and ‐II (CP‐II) types of El Niño, and the multi‐year evolution events of El Niño occurred in 1986–1988 (i.e., 1986/87/88 El Niño) and La Niña occurred in 1998–2000 (i.e., 1998/99/00 La Niña). With regard to the spatial complexity, it is found that the CP‐I type of El Niño is the easiest to hindcast, the CP‐II is second, and the EP is most difficult to hindcast as its amplitude is significantly underestimated in the model used here. The model deficiency in hindcasting the EP El Niño is related to a warm bias in climatological sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical eastern Pacific. This warm bias is related to model biases in the strengths of the Pacific Walker circulation and South Pacific high, both of which are notably weaker than observed. As for the temporal complexity, the model successfully hindcasts the multi‐year evolution of the 1998/99/00 La Niña but fails to accurately hindcast the 1986/87/88 El Niño. This contrasting model performance in hindcastingmore »multi‐year events is found to be related to a cold bias in climatological SSTs in the tropical central Pacific. This cold bias result enables the model La Niña, but not El Niño, to activate intrabasin tropical‒subtropical interactions associated with the Pacific Meridional Mode that produce the multi‐year evolution pattern.

    « less
  3. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major source of interannual climate variability. ENSO life cycles and the associated teleconnections evolve over multiple years at a global scale. This analysis is the first attempt to characterize the structure of the risk posed by trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections to crop production in the greater Pacific Basin region. In this analysis we identify the large-scale atmospheric dynamics of ENSO teleconnections that affect heat and moisture stress during the growing seasons of maize, wheat and soy. We propose a coherent framework for understanding how trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections pose a correlated risk to crop yields in major agricultural belts of the Americas, Australia and China over the course of an ENSO life cycle by using observations and a multi-model ensemble of climate anomalies during crop flowering seasons. Trans-Pacific ENSO teleconnections are often (but not always) offsetting between major producing regions in the Americas and those in northern China or Australia. El Niños tend to create good maize and soybean growing conditions in the US and southeast South America, but poor growing conditions in northern China, southern Mexico and the Cerrado in Brazil. The opposite is true during La Niña. Wheat growing conditions in southeastmore »South America generally have the opposite sign of those in Australia. Furthermore, multi-year La Niñas can force multi-year growing season anomalies in Argentina and Australia. Most ENSO teleconnections relevant for crop flowering seasons are the result of a single trans-Pacific circulation anomaly that develops in boreal summer and persists through the following spring. During the late summer and early fall of a developing ENSO event, the tropical Pacific forces an atmospheric anomaly in the northern midlatitudes that spans the Pacific from northern China to North America and in the southern midlatitudes from Australia to southeast South America. This anomaly directly links the soybean and maize growing seasons of the US, Mexico and China and the wheat growing seasons of Argentina, southern Brazil and Australia. The ENSO event peaks in boreal winter, when the atmospheric circulation anomalies intensify and affect maize and soybeans in southeast South America. As the event decays, the ENSO-induced circulation anomalies persist through the wheat flowering seasons in China and the US.« less
  4. The modulation of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) intensity by eastern Pacific (EP) type and central Pacific (CP) type of El Niño was investigated using observed data during the period of 1979–2013. MJO intensity is weakened (strengthened) over the equatorial western Pacific from November to April during EP (CP) El Niño. The difference arises from distinctive tendencies of column-integrated moist static energy (MSE) anomaly in the region. A larger positive MSE tendency was found during the convection developing period in the CP MJO than the EP MJO. The tendency difference is mainly caused by three meridional moisture advection processes: the advection of the background moisture by the intraseasonal wind anomaly, the advection of intraseasonal moisture anomaly by the mean wind and the nonlinear eddy advection. The advections’ differences are primarily caused by different intraseasonal perturbations and high-frequency activity whereas the background flow and moisture gradient are similar. The amplitudes in the intraseasonal suppressed convection anomaly over the central Pacific is critical in modulating the three meridional moisture advection processes. The influences on the central Pacific convection anomaly from seasonal mean moisture in two types of El Niños are discussed.
  5. Abstract. Given the short span of instrumental precipitationrecords in the South American Altiplano, longer-term hydroclimatic recordsare needed to understand the nature of climate variability and to improvethe predictability of precipitation, a key natural resource for thesocioeconomic development in the Altiplano and adjacent arid lowlands. Inthis region grows Polylepis tarapacana, a long-lived tree species that is very sensitive tohydroclimatic changes and has been widely used for tree-ring studies in thecentral and southern Altiplano. However, in the northern sector of thePeruvian and Chilean Altiplano (16–19∘ S)still exists a gap of high-resolution hydroclimatic data based on tree-ringrecords. Our study provides an overview of the temporal evolution of thelate-spring–mid-summer precipitation for the period 1625–2013 CE at thenorthern South American Altiplano, allowing for the identification of wet ordry periods based on a regional reconstruction from three P. tarapacana chronologies. Anincrease in the occurrence of extreme dry events, together with a decreasingtrend in the reconstructed precipitation, has been recorded since the 1970sin the northern Altiplano within the context of the last ∼4 centuries. The average precipitation over the last 17 years stands outas the driest in our 389-year reconstruction. We reveal a temporal andspatial synchrony across the Altiplano region of dry conditions since themid-1970s. Independent tree-ring-based hydroclimate reconstructionsmore »andseveral paleoclimatic records based on other proxies available for thetropical Andes record this synchrony. The influence of El Niño–SouthernOscillation (ENSO) on the northern Altiplano precipitation was detected byour rainfall reconstruction that showed past drier conditions in our studyregion associated with ENSO warm events. The spectral properties of therainfall reconstruction showed strong imprints of ENSO variability atdecadal, sub-decadal, and inter-annual timescales, in particular from thePacific NIÑO 3 sector. Overall, the recent reduction in precipitation incomparison with previous centuries, the increase in extreme dry events andthe coupling between precipitation and ENSO variability reported by thiswork is essential information in the context of the growing demand for waterresources in the Altiplano. This study will contribute to a betterunderstanding of the vulnerability and resilience of the region to theprojected evapotranspiration increase for the 21st century associated withglobal warming.« less