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 »
The observed El Niño and La Niña exhibit different complexities in their event‐to‐event transition patterns. The El Niño is dominated in order by episodic, cyclic, and multiyear transitions, but the reversed order is found in the La Niña. A subtropical Pacific onset mechanism is used to explain this difference. This mechanism triggers El Niño/La Niña events via subtropical processes and is responsible for producing multiyear and episodic transitions. Its nonlinear responses to the tropical Pacific mean state result in more multiyear transitions for La Niña than El Niño and more episodic transitions for El Niño than La Niña. The CMIP5/6 models realistically simulate the observed transition complexity of El Niño but fail to simulate the transition complexity of La Niña. This deficiency in CMIP5 models arises from a weaker than observed subtropical onset mechanism and a cold bias in the tropical Pacific mean sea surface temperatures in the models.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Abstract During the summer when an El Niño event is transitioning to a La Niña event, the extratropical teleconnections exert robust warming anomalies over the U.S. Midwest threatening agricultural production. This study assesses the performance of current climate models in capturing the prominent observed extratropical responses over North America during the transitioning La Niña summer, based on atmospheric general circulation model experiments and coupled models from the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME). The ensemble mean of the SST-forced experiments across the transitioning La Niña summers does not capture the robust warming in the Midwest. The SST-forced experiments do not produce consistent subtropical western Pacific (WP) negative precipitation anomalies and this leads to the poor simulations of extratropical teleconnections over North America. In the NMME models, with active air–sea interaction, the negative WP precipitation anomalies show better agreement across the models and with observations. However, the downstream wave train pattern and the resulting extratropical responses over North America exhibit large disagreement across the models and are consistently weaker than in observations. Furthermore, in these climate models, an anomalous anticyclone does not robustly translate into a warm anomaly over the Midwest, in disagreement with observations. This work suggests that, during the Elmore »
Five out of six La Niña events since 1998 have lasted two to three years. Why so many long-lasting multiyear La Niña events have emerged recently and whether they will become more common remains unknown. Here we show that ten multiyear La Niña events over the past century had an accelerated trend, with eight of these occurring after 1970. The two types of multiyear La Niña events over this time period followed either a super El Niño or a central Pacific El Niño. We find that multiyear La Niña events differ from single-year La Niñas by a prominent onset rate, which is rooted in the western Pacific warming-enhanced zonal advective feedback for the central Pacific multiyear La Niña events type and thermocline feedback for the super El Niño multiyear La Niña events type. The results from large ensemble climate simulations support the observed multiyear La Niña events–western Pacific warming link. More multiyear La Niña events will exacerbate adverse socioeconomic impacts if the western Pacific continues to warm relative to the central Pacific.
Abstract El Niño and La Niña events show a wide range of durations over the historical record. The predictability of event duration has remained largely unknown, although multiyear events could prolong their climate impacts. To explore the predictability of El Niño and La Niña event duration, multiyear ensemble forecasts are conducted with the Community Earth System Model, version 1 (CESM1). The 10–40-member forecasts are initialized with observed oceanic conditions on 1 March, 1 June, and 1 November of each year during 1954–2015; ensemble spread is created through slight perturbations to the atmospheric initial conditions. The CESM1 predicts the duration of individual El Niño and La Niña events with lead times ranging from 6 to 25 months. In particular, forecasts initialized in November, near the first peak of El Niño or La Niña, can skillfully predict whether the event continues through the second year with 1-yr lead time. The occurrence of multiyear La Niña events can be predicted even earlier with lead times up to 25 months, especially when they are preceded by strong El Niño. The predictability of event duration arises from initial thermocline depth anomalies in the equatorial Pacific, as well as sea surface temperature anomalies within and outsidemore »
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 anomaliesmore »