A possible explanation for the divergent projection of ENSO amplitude change under global warming

Chen, Lin; Li, Tim; Yu, Yongqiang; Behera, Swadhin
December 2017
Climate Dynamics;Dec2017, Vol. 49 Issue 11/12, p3799
Academic Journal
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the greatest climate variability on interannual time scale, yet what controls ENSO amplitude changes under global warming (GW) is uncertain. Here we show that the fundamental factor that controls the divergent projections of ENSO amplitude change within 20 coupled general circulation models that participated in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase-5 is the change of climatologic mean Pacific subtropical cell (STC), whose strength determines the meridional structure of ENSO perturbations and thus the anomalous thermocline response to the wind forcing. The change of the thermocline response is a key factor regulating the strength of Bjerknes thermocline and zonal advective feedbacks, which ultimately lead to the divergent changes in ENSO amplitude. Furthermore, by forcing an ocean general circulation mode with the change of zonal mean zonal wind stress estimated by a simple theoretical model, a weakening of the STC in future is obtained. Such a change implies that ENSO variability might strengthen under GW, which could have a profound socio-economic consequence.


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