skip to main content

Title: Feedback of Mixing to ENSO Phase Change

A decade‐long time series of mixing in the equatorial Pacific cold tongue at 0°, 140°W reveals how mixing changes on El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) time scales. Separated into phase transitions to and from the neutral state, we find that mixing is most intense during the perturbation from the neutral state to peak La Niña when sea surface temperature cools and weakest during the perturbation from the neutral state to peak El Niño when sea surface temperature warms. Intermediate levels of mixing occur during relaxations back to the neutral state. Heating and cooling rates due to the divergence of turbulence heat flux across the mixed layer, where the net surface heat flux is the value of the turbulence heat flux at the sea surface, have the same amplitude and sign as sea surface heating and cooling rates during ENSO phase transitions. We suggest that the basic Bjerknes feedback must include mixing.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 13920-13927
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Substantial (∼2°C) basin averaged sea surface temperature (SST) cooling in the Banda Sea occurred in less than a  14‐day period during the 2015 boreal winter Madden‐Julian Oscillation (MJO). Such rapid and large cooling associated with the MJO has not been reported at least in the last two decades. Processes that control the substantial cooling during the 2015 MJO event are examined using high‐resolution ocean reanalysis and one‐dimensional (1‐D) ocean model simulations. Previous studies suggest that MJO‐induced SST variability in the Banda Sea is primarily controlled by surface heat flux. However, heat budget analysis of the model indicates that entrainment cooling produced by vertical mixing contributes more than surface heat flux for driving the basin‐wide SST cooling during the 2015 event. Analysis of the ocean reanalysis further demonstrates that the prominent coastal upwelling around islands in the southern basin occurs near the end of the cooling period. The upwelled cold waters are advected by MJO‐induced surface currents to a large area within the Banda Sea, which further maintains the basin‐wide cold SST. These results are compared with another MJO‐driven substantial cooling event during the boreal winter of 2007 in which the cooling is mostly driven by surface heat flux. Sensitivity experiments, in which initial temperature conditions for the two events are replaced by each other, demonstrate that the elevated thermocline associated with the 2015 strong El Niño is largely responsible for the intensified cooling generated by the vertical mixing with colder subsurface waters.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability is accompanied by out‐of‐phase anomalies in the top‐of‐atmosphere tropical radiation budget, with anomalous downward flux (i.e., net radiative heating) before El Niño and anomalous upward flux thereafter (and vice versa for La Niña). Here, we show that these radiative anomalies result mainly from a sea surface temperature (SST) “pattern effect,” mediated by changes in tropical‐mean tropospheric stability. These stability changes are caused by SST anomalies migrating from climatologically cool to warm regions over the ENSO cycle. Our results are suggestive of a two‐way coupling between SST variability and radiation, where ENSO‐induced radiative changes may in turn feed back onto SST during ENSO.

    more » « less
  3. As the dominant form of mesoscale variability in the equatorial eastern Pacific, Tropical Instability Waves (TIWs) are known to interact with the El Niño and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in complex ways. TIWs activity is modulated by the ENSO state and also provide significant feedback on ENSO via nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH), acting as a source of asymmetry between the El Niño and La Niña phases. In this work, we show that the interannual variability of TIWs-induced heat flux and NDH can be approximately expressed in terms of the mean meridional temperature gradient as TIWs tend to transport heat downgradient of the temperature anomalies along the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) front. The TIWs-induced NDH can be quantified as an asymmetric negative feedback on ENSO by a nonlinear thermal eddy diffusivity which depends on the background TIWs pattern and the ENSO-related linear and nonlinear processes. This proposed parameterization scheme can capture well the direct ENSO modulation on TIWs activity, the combination effect arising from the nonlinear interaction between ENSO and the cold tongue annual cycle, and associated ENSO nonlinearity. This parameterization scheme is effectively tested using four ocean reanalysis datasets with different horizontal resolutions that exhibit contrasted patterns of TIWs activity. This scheme may be useful for assessing the TIWs-induced feedback on ENSO in mechanistic ENSO models to better understand the dynamics of ENSO complexity. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Multi-time-scale variabilities of the Indian Ocean (IO) temperature over 0–700 m are revisited from the perspective of vertical structure. Analysis of historical data for 1955–2018 identifies two dominant types of vertical structures that account for respectively 70.5% and 21.2% of the total variance on interannual-to-interdecadal time scales with the linear trend and seasonal cycle removed. The leading type manifests as vertically coherent warming/cooling with the maximal amplitude at ~100 m and exhibits evident interdecadal variations. The second type shows a vertical dipole structure between the surface (0–60 m) and subsurface (60–400 m) layers and interannual-to-decadal fluctuations. Ocean model experiments were performed to gain insights into underlying processes. The vertically coherent, basinwide warming/cooling of the IO on an interdecadal time scale is caused by changes of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) controlled by Pacific climate and anomalous surface heat fluxes partly originating from external forcing. Enhanced changes in the subtropical southern IO arise from positive air–sea feedback among sea surface temperature, winds, turbulent heat flux, cloud cover, and shortwave radiation. Regarding dipole-type variability, the basinwide surface warming is induced by surface heat flux forcing, and the subsurface cooling occurs only in the eastern IO. The cooling in the southeast IO is generated by the weakened ITF, whereas that in the northeast IO is caused by equatorial easterly winds through upwelling oceanic waves. Both El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and IO dipole (IOD) events are favorable for the generation of such vertical dipole anomalies. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) significantly influence Eurasian wintertime climate. The El Niño phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) also affects climate in that region through tropospheric and stratospheric pathways, including increased SSW frequency. However, most SSWs are unrelated to El Niño, and their importance compared to other El Niño pathways remains to be quantified. We here contrast these two sources of variability using two 200‐member ensembles of 1‐year integrations of the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model, one ensemble with prescribed El Niño sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and one with neutral‐ENSO SSTs. We form composites of wintertime climate anomalies, with and without SSWs, in each ensemble and contrast them to a basic state represented by neutral‐ENSO winters without SSWs. We find that El Niño and SSWs both result in negative North Atlantic Oscillation anomalies and have comparable impacts on European precipitation, but SSWs cause larger Eurasian cooling. Our results have implications for predictability of wintertime Eurasian climate.

    more » « less