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  1. Abstract The Pacific–North American (PNA) teleconnection pattern has been linked both to tropical phenomena, including the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and to internal extratropical processes, including interactions with the zonally varying basic state and synoptic eddies. Many questions remain, however, concerning how these various relationships act, both separately and together, to yield observed PNA variability. Using linear inverse modeling (LIM), this study finds that the development and amplification of PNA anomalies largely results from the interference of modes strongly coupled to sea surface temperatures (SST), such as ENSO, and modes internal to the atmosphere, including the MJO. These SST-coupled and “internal atmospheric” modes form subspaces that are not orthogonal, and PNA growth is shown to occur via non-normal interactions. An internal atmospheric space LIM is developed to examine growth beyond this interference by removing the SST-coupled modes, effectively removing ENSO and retaining MJO variability. Optimal PNA growth in the internal atmospheric space LIM is driven by MJO heating, particularly over the Indian Ocean, and a retrograding northeast Pacific streamfunction anomaly. Additionally, the individual contributions of tropical heating and the extratropical circulation on PNA growth are investigated. The non-normal PNA growth is an important result, demonstrating the difficulty in partitioning PNA variance into contributions from different phenomena. This cautionary result is likely applicable to many geophysical phenomena and should be considered in attribution studies. 
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  2. Abstract

    A cyclostationary linear inverse model (CSLIM) is used to investigate the seasonal growth of tropical Pacific Ocean El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events with canonical, central Pacific (CP), or eastern Pacific (EP) sea surface temperature (SST) characteristics. Analysis shows that all types of ENSO events experience maximum growth toward final states occurring in November and December. ENSO events with EP characteristics also experience growth into May and June, but CP events do not. A single dominant “ENSO mode,” growing from an equatorial heat content anomaly into a characteristic ENSO-type SST pattern in about 9 months (consistent with the delayed/recharge oscillator model of ENSO), is essential for the predictable development of all ENSO events. Notably, its seasonality is responsible for the late-calendar-year maximum in ENSO amplification. However, this ENSO mode alone does not capture the observed growth and evolution of diverse ENSO events, which additionally involve the seasonal evolution of other nonorthogonal Floquet modes. EP event growth occurs when the ENSO mode is initially “covered up” in combination with other Floquet modes. The ENSO mode’s slow seasonal evolution allows it to emerge while the other modes rapidly evolve and/or decay, leading to strongly amplifying and more predictable EP events. CP events develop when the initial state has a substantial contribution from Floquet modes with meridional mode–like SST structures. Thus, while nearly all ENSO events involve the seasonally varying ENSO-mode dynamics, the diversity and predictability of ENSO events cannot be understood without identifying contributions from the remaining Floquet modes.

    Significance Statement

    The purpose of this study is to identify structures that lead to seasonal growth of diverse types of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. An important contribution from this study is that it uses an observationally constrained, empirically derived seasonal model. We find that processes affecting the evolution of diverse ENSO events are strongly seasonally dependent. ENSO events with eastern equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) characteristics are closely related to a single “ENSO mode” that resembles theoretical models of ENSO variability. ENSO events that have central equatorial Pacific SST characteristics include contributions from additional “meridional mode” structures that evolve via different physical processes. These findings are an important step in evaluating the seasonal predictability of ENSO diversity.

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  3. Abstract

    In situ observation networks and reanalyses products of the state of the atmosphere and upper ocean show well-defined, large-scale patterns of coupled climate variability on time scales ranging from seasons to several decades. We summarize these phenomena and their physics, which have been revealed by analysis of observations, by experimentation with uncoupled and coupled atmosphere and ocean models with a hierarchy of complexity, and by theoretical developments. We start with a discussion of the seasonal cycle in the equatorial tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which are clearly affected by coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean. We then discuss the tropical phenomena that only exist because of the coupling between the atmosphere and the ocean: the Pacific and Atlantic meridional modes, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific, and a phenomenon analogous to ENSO in the Atlantic. For ENSO, we further discuss the sources of irregularity and asymmetry between warm and cold phases of ENSO, and the response of ENSO to forcing. Fundamental to variability on all time scales in the midlatitudes of the Northern Hemisphere are preferred patterns of uncoupled atmospheric variability that exist independent of any changes in the state of the ocean, land, or distribution of sea ice. These patterns include the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO), and the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern; they are most active in wintertime, with a temporal spectrum that is nearly white. Stochastic variability in the NPO, PNA, and NAO force the ocean on days to interannual times scales by way of turbulent heat exchange and Ekman transport, and on decadal and longer time scales by way of wind stress forcing. The PNA is partially responsible for the Pacific decadal oscillation; the NAO is responsible for an analogous phenomenon in the North Atlantic subpolar gyre. In models, stochastic forcing by the NAO also gives rise to variability in the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) that is partially responsible for multidecadal anomalies in the North Atlantic climate known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO); observations do not yet exist to adequately determine the physics of the AMO. We review the progress that has been made in the past 50 years in understanding each of these phenomena and the implications for short-term (seasonal-to-interannual) climate forecasts. We end with a brief discussion of advances of things that are on the horizon, under the rug, and over the rainbow.

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  4. Abstract

    Previous studies indicate an asymmetry in the amplitude and persistence of El Niño (EN) and La Niña (LN) events. We show that this observed EN‐LN asymmetry can be captured with a linear model driven by correlated additive and multiplicative (CAM) noise, without resorting to a deterministic nonlinear model. The model is derived from 1‐month lag statistics taken from monthly sea surface temperature (SST) data sets spanning the twentieth century, in an extension of an empirical‐dynamical technique called Linear Inverse Modeling. Our results suggest that noise amplitudes tend to be stronger for EN compared to LN events, which is sufficient to generate asymmetry in amplitude and also produces more persistent LN events on average. These results establish a null hypothesis for EN‐LN asymmetry and suggest that strong EN events may not be more predictable that what can be accounted for by a multivariate linear system driven by CAM noise.

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