Nonlinear zonal wind response to ENSO in the CMIP5 models: Roles of the zonal and meridional shift of the ITCZ/SPCZ and the simulated climatological precipitation

Kit Yan Choi, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Andrew T. Wittenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

The observed equatorial Pacific zonal wind response during El Niño tends to be stronger than during La Niña. Most global coupled climate models in phase 5 of CMIP (CMIP5) exhibit such nonlinearity, although weaker than observed. The wind response nonlinearity can be reproduced by driving a linear shallow water atmospheric model with a model's or the observed precipitation anomalies, which can be decomposed into two main components: the zonal and meridional redistribution of the climatological precipitation. Both redistributions contribute comparably to the total rainfall anomalies, whereas the zonal redistribution plays the dominant role in the zonal wind response. The meridional redistribution component plays an indirect role in the nonlinear wind response by limiting the zonal redistribution during La Niña and thus enhancing the nonlinearity in the wind response significantly. During La Niña, the poleward movement of the ITCZ/SPCZ reduces the equatorial zonal-mean precipitation available for the zonal redistribution and its resulting zonal wind response. Conversely, during El Niño, the equatorward movement of the ITCZ and SPCZ do not limit the zonal redistribution of precipitation. The linear equatorial zonal wind response to ENSO is found to have a significant linear correlation with the equatorial central Pacific climatological precipitation and SST among the CMIP5 models. However, no linear correlation is found between the nonlinear equatorial zonal wind response and the climatological precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8556-8573
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume28
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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