Decadal shift in El Niño influences on Indo-western Pacific and East Asian climate in the 1970s

Shang Ping Xie, Yan Du, Gang Huang, Xiao Tong Zheng, Hiroki Tokinaga, Kaiming Hu, Qinyu Liu

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256 Citations (Scopus)


El Niño's influence on the subtropical northwest (NW) Pacific climate increased after the climate regime shift of the 1970s. This is manifested in well-organized atmospheric anomalies of suppressed convection and a surface anticyclone during the summer (June-August) of the El Niño decay year [JJA(1)], a season when equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies have dissipated. In situ observations and ocean- atmospheric reanalyses are used to investigate mechanisms for the interdecadal change. During JJA(1), the influence of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the NW Pacific is indirect, being mediated by SST conditions over the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO). The results here show that interdecadal change in this influence is due to changes in the TIO response to ENSO. During the postregime shift epoch, the El Niño teleconnection excites downwelling Rossby waves in the south TIO by anticyclonic wind curls. These Rossby waves propagate slowly westward, causing persistent SST warming over the thermocline ridge in the southwest TIO. The ocean warming induces an antisymmetric wind pattern across the equator, and the anomalous northeasterlies cause the north Indian Ocean to warm through JJA(1) by reducing the southwesterly monsoon winds. The TIO warming excites a warm Kelvin wave in tropospheric temperature, resulting in robust atmospheric anomalies over the NW Pacific that include the surface anticyclone. During the preregime shift epoch, ENSO is significantly weaker in variance and decays earlier than during the recent epoch. Compared to the epoch after the mid-1970s, SST and wind anomalies over the TIO are similar during the developing and mature phases of ENSO but are very weak during the decay phase. Specifically, the southern TIO Rossby waves are weaker, so are the antisymmetric wind pattern and the North Indian Ocean warming during JJA(1). Without the anchor in the TIO warming, atmospheric anomalies over the NW Pacific fail to develop during JJA(1) prior to the mid-1970s. The relationship of the interdecadal change to global warming and implications for the East Asian summer monsoon are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3352-3368
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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