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    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 El Niño to La Niña transitioning summer, active air–sea interaction is important in simulating tropical precipitation over the WP. Nevertheless, skillful representations of the Rossby wave propagation and land–atmosphere processes in climate models are also essential for skillful simulations of extratropical responses over North America. 
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    Abstract Persistent multiyear cold states of the tropical Pacific Ocean drive hydroclimate anomalies worldwide, including persistent droughts in the extratropical Americas. Here, the atmosphere and ocean dynamics and thermodynamics of multiyear cold states of the tropical Pacific Ocean are investigated using European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses and simplified models of the ocean and atmosphere. The cold states are maintained by anomalous ocean heat flux divergence and damped by increased surface heat flux from the atmosphere to ocean. The anomalous ocean heat flux divergence is contributed to by both changes in the ocean circulation and thermal structure. The keys are an anomalously shallow thermocline that enhances cooling by upwelling and anomalous westward equatorial currents that enhance cold advection. The thermocline depth anomalies are shown to be a response to equatorial wind stress anomalies. The wind stress anomalies are shown to be a simple dynamical response to equatorial SST anomalies as mediated by precipitation anomalies. The cold states are fundamentally maintained by atmosphere-ocean coupling in the equatorial Pacific. The physical processes that maintain the cold states are well approximated by linear dynamics for ocean and atmosphere and simple thermodynamics. 
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    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. 
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  6. Large-scale modes of climate variability can force widespread crop yield anomalies and are therefore often presented as a risk to food security. We quantify how modes of climate variability contribute to crop production variance. We find that the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), tropical Atlantic variability (TAV), and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) together account for 18, 7, and 6% of globally aggregated maize, soybean, and wheat production variability, respectively. The lower fractions of global-scale soybean and wheat production variability result from substantial but offsetting climate-forced production anomalies. All climate modes are important in at least one region studied. In 1983, ENSO, the only mode capable of forcing globally synchronous crop failures, was responsible for the largest synchronous crop failure in the modern historical record. Our results provide the basis for monitoring, and potentially predicting, simultaneous crop failures. 
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  7. Tropical Pacific decadal variability (TPDV), though not the totality of Pacific decadal variability, has wide-ranging climatic impacts. It is currently unclear whether this phenomenon is predictable. In this study, we reconstruct the attractor of the tropical Pacific system in long, unforced simulations from an intermediate-complexity model, two general circulation models (GCMs), and the observations with the aim of assessing the predictability of TPDV in these systems. We find that in the intermediate-complexity model, positive (high variance, El Niño–like) and negative (low variance, La Niña–like) phases of TPDV emerge as a pair of regime-like states. The observed system bears resemblance to this behavior, as does one GCM, while the other GCM does not display this structure. However, these last three time series are too short to confidently characterize the full distribution of interdecadal variability. The intermediate-complexity model is shown to lie in highly predictable parts of its attractor 37% of the time, during which most transitions between TPDV regimes occur. The similarities between the observations and this system suggest that the tropical Pacific may be somewhat predictable on interdecadal time scales. 
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