ENSO and greenhouse warming

Wenju Cai, Agus Santoso, Guojian Wang, Sang Wook Yeh, Soon Il An, Kim M. Cobb, Mat Collins, Eric Guilyardi, Fei Fei Jin, Jong Seong Kug, Matthieu Lengaigne, Michael J. Mcphaden, Ken Takahashi, Axel Timmermann, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Masahiro Watanabe, Lixin Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

581 Scopus citations


The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the dominant climate phenomenon affecting extreme weather conditions worldwide. Its response to greenhouse warming has challenged scientists for decades, despite model agreement on projected changes in mean state. Recent studies have provided new insights into the elusive links between changes in ENSO and in the mean state of the Pacific climate. The projected slow-down in Walker circulation is expected to weaken equatorial Pacific Ocean currents, boosting the occurrences of eastward-propagating warm surface anomalies that characterize observed extreme El Niño events. Accelerated equatorial Pacific warming, particularly in the east, is expected to induce extreme rainfall in the eastern equatorial Pacific and extreme equatorward swings of the Pacific convergence zones, both of which are features of extreme El Niño. The frequency of extreme La Niña is also expected to increase in response to more extreme El Niños, an accelerated maritime continent warming and surface-intensified ocean warming. ENSO-related catastrophic weather events are thus likely to occur more frequently with unabated greenhouse-gas emissions. But model biases and recent observed strengthening of the Walker circulation highlight the need for further testing as new models, observations and insights become available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-859
Number of pages11
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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