Modelled rainfall response to strong El Nino sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Pacific

Chung, Christine T. Y. and Power, Scott B. (2015) Modelled rainfall response to strong El Nino sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Pacific. Journal of Climate, 28 (8). pp. 3133-3151. ISSN 0894-8755

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© 2015 American Meteorological Society.El Niño-Southern Oscillation strongly influences the interannual variability of rainfall over the Pacific, shifting the position and orientation of the South Pacific convergence zone (SPCZ) and intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). In 1982/83 and 1997/98, very strong El Niño events occurred, during which time the SPCZ and ITCZ merged into a single zonal convergence zone (szCZ) extending across the Pacific at approximately 58S. The sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) reached very large values and peaked farther east compared to other El Niño events. Previous work shows that tropical Pacific precipitation responds nonlinearly to changing the amplitude of the El Niño SSTA even if the structure of the SSTA remains unchanged, but large canonical El Niño SSTAs cannot reproduce the szCZ precipitation pattern. This study conducts idealized, SST-forced experiments, starting with a large-amplitude canonical El Niño SSTA and gradually adding a residual pattern until the full (1982/83) and (1997/98) mean SST is reproduced. Differences between the canonical and strong El Niño SSTA patterns are crucial in generating an szCZ event. Three elements influence the precipitation pattern: (i) the local meridional SST maxima influences the ITCZ position and western Pacific precipitation, (ii) the total zonal SST maximum influences the SPCZ position, and (iii) the equatorial Pacific SST influences the total amount of precipitation. In these experiments, the meridional SST gradient increases as the SSTAs approach szCZ conditions. Additionally, the precipitation changes evident in szCZ years are primarily driven by changes in the atmospheric circulation, rather than thermodynamic changes. The addition of a global warming SST pattern increases the precipitation along the equator and shifts the ITCZ farther equatorward.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 04:17
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2021 00:24
Uncontrolled Keywords: atmospheric properties; precipitation; surface water; oceanography; nickel; materials science; water engineering; air-sea interaction; atmospheric circulation; interannual variability; intertropical convergence zone; position and orientations; precipitation patterns; sea surface temperature anomalies; South Pacific convergence zones; thermodynamic changes
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040105 Climatology (excl.Climate Change Processes)
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370202 Climatology
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960304 Climate Variability (excl. Social Impacts)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1905 Understanding climate change > 190502 Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
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