Atmosphere-ocean variations in the Indo-Pacific sector during ENSO episodes

Ngar Cheung Lau, Mary Jo Nath

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The influences of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on air-sea interaction in the Indian-western Pacific (IWP) Oceans have been investigated using a general circulation model. Observed monthly sea surface temperature (SST) variations in the deep tropical eastern/central Pacific (DTEP) have been inserted in the lower boundary of this model through the 1950-99 period. At all maritime grid points outside of DTEP, the model atmosphere has been coupled with an oceanic mixed layer model with variable depth. Altogether 16 independent model runs have been conducted. Composite analysis of selected ENSO episodes illustrates that the prescribed SST anomalies in DTEP affect the surface atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns in IWP through displacements of the near-equatorial Walker circulation and generation of Rossby wave modes in the subtropics. Such atmospheric responses modulate the surface fluxes as well as the oceanic mixed layer depth, and thereby establish a well-defined SST anomaly pattern in the IWP sector several months after the peak in ENSO forcing in DTEP. In most parts of the IWP region, the net SST tendency induced by atmospheric changes has the same polarity as the local composite SST anomaly, thus indicating that the atmospheric forcing acts to reinforce the underlying SST signal. By analyzing the output from a suite of auxiliary experiments, it is demonstrated that the SST perturbations in IWP (which are primarily generated by ENSO-related atmospheric changes) can, in turn, exert notable influences on the atmospheric conditions over that region. This feedback mechanism also plays an important role in the eastward migration of the subtropical anticyclones over the western Pacific in both hemispheres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-20
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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