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A new understanding of El Niño's impact over East Asia: dominance of the ENSO combination mode

Zhang, W., Li, H., Stuecker, M. F., Jin, F.-F. and Turner, A. (2016) A new understanding of El Niño's impact over East Asia: dominance of the ENSO combination mode. Journal of Climate, 29 (12). pp. 4347-4359. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0104.1

Abstract/Summary

Previous studies have shown that the Indo-Pacific atmospheric response to ENSO comprises two dominant modes of variability: a meridionally quasi-symmetric response (independent from the annual cycle) and an anti-symmetric response (arising from the nonlinear atmospheric interaction between ENSO variability and the annual cycle), referred to as the combination mode (C-Mode). This study demonstrates that the direct El Niño signal over the tropics is confined to the equatorial region and has no significant impact on the atmospheric response over East Asia. The El Niño-associated equatorial anomalies can be expanded towards off-equatorial regions by the C-Mode through ENSO’s interaction with the annual cycle. The C-Mode is the prime driver for the development of an anomalous low-level anticyclone over the western North Pacific (WNP) during the El Niño decay phase, which usually transports more moisture to East Asia and thereby causes more precipitation over southern China. We use an Atmospheric General Circulation Model that well reproduces the WNP anticyclonic anomalies when both El Niño sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies as well as the SST annual cycle are prescribed as boundary conditions. However, no significant WNP anticyclonic circulation anomaly appears during the El Niño decay phase when excluding the SST annual cycle. Our analyses of observational data and model experiments suggest that the annual cycle plays a key role in the East Asian climate anomalies associated with El Niño through their nonlinear atmospheric interaction. Hence, a realistic simulation of the annual cycle is crucial in order to correctly capture the ENSO-associated climate anomalies over East Asia.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:39366
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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