skip to main content


Title: More frequent central Pacific El Niño and stronger eastern pacific El Niño in a warmer climate
Abstract El Niño events exhibit rich diversity in their spatial patterns, which can lead to distinct global impacts. Therefore, how El Niño pattern diversity will change in a warmer climate is one of the most critical issues for future climate projections. Based on the sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project simulations, we report an inter-model consensus on future El Niño diversity changes. Central Pacific (CP) El Niño events are projected to occur more frequently compared to eastern Pacific (EP) El Niño events. Concurrently, EP El Niño events are projected to increase in amplitude, leading to higher chances of extreme EP El Niño occurrences. We suggest that enhanced upper-ocean stability due to greenhouse warming can lead to a stronger surface-layer response for increasing positive feedbacks, more favorable excitation of CP El Niño. Whereas, enhanced nonlinear atmospheric responses to EP sea surface temperatures can lead to a higher probability of extreme EP El Niño.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2141728 2219257
NSF-PAR ID:
10394431
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
npj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Volume:
5
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2397-3722
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    El Niño’s intensity change under anthropogenic warming is of great importance to society, yet current climate models’ projections remain largely uncertain. The current classification of El Niño does not distinguish the strong from the moderate El Niño events, making it difficult to project future change of El Niño’s intensity. Here we classify 33 El Niño events from 1901 to 2017 by cluster analysis of the onset and amplification processes, and the resultant 4 types of El Niño distinguish the strong from the moderate events and the onset from successive events. The 3 categories of El Niño onset exhibit distinct development mechanisms. We find El Niño onset regime has changed from eastern Pacific origin to western Pacific origin with more frequent occurrence of extreme events since the 1970s. This regime change is hypothesized to arise from a background warming in the western Pacific and the associated increased zonal and vertical sea-surface temperature (SST) gradients in the equatorial central Pacific, which reveals a controlling factor that could lead to increased extreme El Niño events in the future. The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) models’ projections demonstrate that both the frequency and intensity of the strong El Niño events will increase significantly if the projected central Pacific zonal SST gradients become enhanced. If the currently observed background changes continue under future anthropogenic forcing, more frequent strong El Niño events are anticipated. The models’ uncertainty in the projected equatorial zonal SST gradients, however, remains a major roadblock for faithful prediction of El Niño’s future changes. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Atmospheric blocking events are persistent quasi‐stationary geopotential height anomalies that divert the jet stream from its climatological path in the mid‐ to high‐latitudes. Previous studies have found that different phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influence the characteristics of blocking, but none have considered the spatial diversity of El Niño. In this study, we examine Northern Hemisphere blocking events with respect to the “Central Pacific” (CP) and “Eastern Pacific” (EP) flavors of El Niño in 83 years of ERA5 reanalysis. The two El Niño flavors have dissimilar patterns of forcing on atmospheric circulation that impact the strength and placement of the upper‐level jet stream, thus affecting blocking event frequency and duration. Significant contrasts in blocking characteristics between CP and EP years are disregarded when a single ENSO index is used, and we emphasize that El Niño flavors should be considered in future investigations of blocking and ENSO‐related variability.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Through the diagnosis of 29 Atmospheric Model Inter-comparison Project (AMIP) experiments from the CMIP5 inter-comparison project, we investigate the impact of the mean state on simulated western North Pacific anomalous anticyclone (WNPAC) during El Niño decaying summer. The result indicates that the inter-model difference of the JJA mean precipitation in the Indo-western Pacific warm pool is responsible for the difference of the WNPAC. During the decaying summer of an Eastern Pacific (EP) type El Niño, a model that simulates excessive mean rainfall over the western North Pacific (WNP) reproduces a stronger WNPAC response, through an enhanced local convection-circulation-moisture feedback. The intensity of the simulated WNPAC during the decay summer of a Central Pacific (CP) type El Niño, on the other hand, depends on the mean precipitation over the tropical Indian Ocean. The distinctive WNPAC-mean precipitation relationships between the EP and CP El Niño result from different anomalous SST patterns in the WNP. While the local SST anomaly plays an active role in maintaining the WNPAC during the EP El Niño, it plays a passive role during the CP El Niño. As a result, only the mean-state precipitation/moisture field in the tropical Indian Ocean modulates the circulation anomaly in the WNP in the latter case. 
    more » « less
  4. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, manifested by the great swings of large-scale sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the equatorial central to eastern Pacific oceans, is a major source of interannual global shifts in climate patterns and weather activities. ENSO’s SST anomalies exhibit remarkable spatiotemporal pattern diversity (STPD), with their spatial pattern diversity dominated by Central Pacific (CP) and Eastern Pacific (EP) El Niño events and their temporal diversity marked by different timescales and intermittency in these types of events. By affecting various Earth system components, ENSO and its STPD yield significant environmental, ecological, economic, and societal impacts over the globe. The basic dynamics of ENSO as a canonical oscillator generated by coupled ocean–atmosphere interactions in the tropical Pacific have been largely understood. A minimal simple conceptual model such as the recharge oscillator paradigm provides means for quantifying the linear and nonlinear seasonally modulated growth rate and frequency together with ENSO’s state-dependent noise forcing for understanding ENSO’s amplitude and periodicity, boreal winter-time phase locking, and warm/cold phase asymmetry. However, the dynamical mechanisms explaining the key features of ENSO STPD associated with CP and EP events remain to be better understood. This article provides a summary of the recent active research on the dynamics of ENSO STPD together with discussions on challenges and outlooks for theoretical, diagnostic, and numerical modeling approaches to advance our understanding and modeling of ENSO, its STPD, and their broad impacts. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Using observational data and model hindcasts produced by a coupled climate model, we examine the response of the East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) to three types of El Niño: eastern Pacific (EP) and central Pacific I (CP-I) and II (CP-II) El Niños. The observational analysis shows that all three El Niño types weaken the EAWM with varying degrees of impact. The EP El Niño has the largest weakening effect, while the CP-II El Niño has the second largest, and the CP-I El Niño has the smallest. We find that diverse El Niño types impact the EAWM by altering the responses of two anomalous anticyclones during El Niño mature winter: the western North Pacific anticyclone (WNPAC) and Kuroshio anticyclone (KAC). The WNPAC responses are controlled by the Gill response and Indian Ocean warming processes that both respond to the eastern-to-central tropical Pacific precipitation anomalies. The KAC responses are controlled by a poleward wave propagation responding to the northwestern tropical Pacific precipitation anomalies. We find that the model hindcasts significantly underestimate the weakening effect during the EP and CP-II El Niños. These underestimations are related to a model deficiency in which it produces a too-weak WNPAC response during the EP El Niño and completely misses the KAC response during both types of El Niño. The too-weak WNPAC response is caused by the model deficiency of simulating too-weak eastern-to-central tropical Pacific precipitation anomalies. The lack of KAC response arises from the unrealistic response of the model’s extratropical atmosphere to the northwestern tropical Pacific precipitation anomalies. 
    more » « less