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  1. El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly skewness encapsulates the nonlinear processes of strong ENSO events and affects future climate projections. Yet, its response to CO2 forcing remains not well understood. Here, we find ENSO skewness hysteresis in a large ensemble CO2 removal simulation. The positive SST skewness in the central-to-eastern tropical Pacific gradually weakens (most pronounced near the dateline) in response to increasing CO2, but weakens even further once CO2 is ramped down. Further analyses reveal that hysteresis of the Intertropical Convergence Zone migration leads to more active and farther eastward-located strong eastern Pacific El Niño events, thus decreasing central Pacific ENSO skewness by reducing the amplitude of the central Pacific positive SST anomalies and increasing the scaling effect of the eastern Pacific skewness denominator, i.e., ENSO intensity, respectively. The reduction of eastern Pacific El Niño maximum intensity, which is constrained by the SST zonal gradient of the projected background El Niño-like warming pattern, also contributes to a reduction of eastern Pacific SST skewness around the CO2 peak phase. This study highlights the divergent responses of different strong El Niño regimes in response to climate change. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the strongest interannual climate variability with far-reaching socioeconomic consequences. Many studies have investigated ENSO-projected changes under future greenhouse warming, but its responses to plausible mitigation behaviors remain unknown. We show that ENSO sea surface temperature (SST) variability and associated global teleconnection patterns exhibit strong hysteretic responses to carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction based on the 28-member ensemble simulations of the CESM1.2 model under an idealized CO2 ramp-up and ramp-down scenario. There is a substantial increase in the ensemble-averaged eastern Pacific SST anomaly variance during the ramp-down period compared to the ramp-up period. Such ENSO hysteresis is mainly attributed to the hysteretic response of the tropical Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone meridional position to CO2 removal and is further supported by several selected single-member Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) model simulations. The presence of ENSO hysteresis leads to its amplified and prolonged impact in a warming climate, depending on the details of future mitigation pathways. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2024
  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. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Although the 1997/98 and 2015/16 El Niño events are considered to be the strongest on record, their subsequent La Niña events exhibited contrasted evolutions. In this study, we demonstrate that the extremely strong period of Tropical Instability Waves (TIWs) at the beginning of boreal summer of 2016 played an important role in hindering the subsequent La Niña’s development by transporting extra off-equatorial heat into the Pacific cold tongue. By comparing the TIWs contribution based on an oceanic mixed-layer heat budget analysis for the 1998 and 2016 episodes, we establish that TIW-induced nonlinear dynamical heating (NDH) is a significant contributor to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase transition in 2016. TIW-induced NDH contributed to around 0.4°C per month warming during the early boreal summer (May-June) following the 2015/16 El Niño’s peak, which is found to be an essential inhibiting factor that prevented the subsequent La Niña’s growth. A time-mean eddy kinetic energy analysis reveals that anomalous TIWs during 2016 mainly gained their energy from the baroclinic instability conversion due to a strong SST warming in the northeastern off-equatorial Pacific that promoted an increased meridional SST gradient. This highlights the importance of accurately reproducing TIW activity in ENSO simulation and the benefit of off-equatorial SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific as an independent precursor for ENSO predictions. 
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  5. Abstract

    Tropical instability waves (TIWs), the dominant form of eddy variability in the tropics, have a peak period at about 5 weeks and are strongly modulated by both the seasonal cycle and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In this study, we first demonstrated that TIW‐induced nonlinear dynamical heating (NDH) is basically proportional to the TIW amplitude depicted by a complex index for TIW. We further delineated that this NDH, capturing the seasonally modulated nonlinear feedback of TIW activity onto ENSO, is well approximated by a theoretical formulation derived analytically from a simple linear stochastic model for the TIW index. The results of this study may be useful for the climate community to evaluate and understand the TIW‐ENSO multiscale interaction.

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  6. Abstract

    The relationship between the equatorial Pacific warm water volume (WWV) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) sea surface temperature (SST) has varied considerably on decadal timescales. These changes are strongly related to the occurrence frequency of central Pacific (CP) ENSO events. While both eastern Pacific (EP) and CP ENSO events show clear signatures of WWV recharge/discharge, their phase‐lag relationships between WWV and Niño3.4 SST are different. The WWV usually leads the Niño3.4 SST by two to three seasons during EP ENSO, while the lead time is reduced to one season during CP ENSO. The different phase‐lag relationships can be explained by distinct periodicities of the two ENSO types. Hence, ENSO regime changes associated with decadal predominance of either EP or CP ENSO events can give rise to decadal variations in the statistical WWV‐ENSO SST relationship. We emphasize the importance of identifying these different ENSO types and potentially different ENSO regimes to assess ENSO predictability.

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