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Anatomizing the Ocean´s role in ENSO changes under global warming
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Meteorology .
2008 (English)In: Journal of climate, ISSN 1520-0442, Vol. 21, no 24, 6539-6555 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A revisit on observations shows that the tropical El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability, after removing both the long-term trend and decadal variation of the background climate, has been enhanced by as much as 50% during the past 50 yr. This is inconsistent with the changes in the equatorial atmosphere, which shows a slowdown of the zonal Walker circulation and tends to stabilize the tropical coupling system. The ocean role is highlighted in this paper. The enhanced ENSO variability is attributed to the strengthened equatorial thermocline that acts as a destabilizing factor of the tropical coupling system. To quantify the dynamic effect of the ocean on the ENSO variability under the global warming, ensemble experiments are performed using a coupled climate model [Fast Ocean Atmosphere Model (FOAM)], following the “1pctto2x” scenario defined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. Term balance analyses on the temperature variability equation show that the anomalous upwelling of the mean vertical temperature gradient (referred as the “local term”) in the eastern equatorial Pacific is the most important destabilizing factor to the temperature variabilities. The magnitude of local term and its change are controlled by its two components: the mean vertical temperature gradient Tz and the “virtual vertical heat flux” −w′T′. The former can be viewed as the background of the latter and these two components are positively correlated. A stronger Tz is usually associated with a bigger upward heat flux −w′T′, which implies a bigger impact of thermocline depth variations on SST. The Tz is first enhanced during the transient stage of the global warming with a 1% yr−1 increase of CO2, and then reduced during the equilibrium stage with a fixed doubled CO2. This turnaround in Tz determines the turnaround of ENSO variability in the entire global warming period.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 21, no 24, 6539-6555 p.
National Category
Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-17320DOI: doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2324.1OAI: diva2:183841
Available from: 2009-01-13 Created: 2009-01-13 Last updated: 2010-01-29Bibliographically approved

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Zhang, Qiong
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