Interdecadal difference of interannual variability characteristics of South China Sea SSTs associated with ENSO

Yali Yang, Shang Ping Xie, Yan Du, Hiroki Tokinaga

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) persists into post-ENSO September over the South China Sea (SCS), the longest correlation in the World Ocean. Slow modulations of this correlation are analyzed by using the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Dataset (ICOADS). ENSO's influence on SCS SST has experienced significant interdecadal changes over the past 138 years (1870-2007), with a double-peak structure correlation after the 1960s compared to a single-peak before the 1940s. According to the ENSO correlation character, the analysis period is divided into four epochs. In epoch 3, 1960-83, the SST warming and enhanced precipitation over the southeastern tropical Indian Ocean, rather than the Indian Ocean basinwide warming, induce easterly wind anomalies and warm up the SCS in the summer following El Niño. Besides the Indian Ocean effect, during epochs 2 (1930-40) and 4 (1984-2007), the Pacific-Japan (PJ) pattern of atmospheric circulation anomalies helps sustain the SCS SST warming through summer (June-August) with easterly wind anomalies. The associated increase in shortwave radiation and decrease in upward latent heat flux cause the SCS SST warming to persist into the summer. Meanwhile, the rainfall response around the SCS to ENSO shows interdecadal variability, with stronger variability after the 1980s. The results suggest that both the remote forcing from the tropical Indian Ocean and the PJ pattern are important for the ENSO teleconnection to the SCS and its interdecadal modulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7145-7160
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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