Reassessing the role of stochastic forcing in the 1997-1998 El Niño

Gabriel Andres Vecchi, A. T. Wittenberg, A. Rosati

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We explore the extent to which stochastic atmospheric variability was fundamental to development of extreme sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) during the 1997-8 El Niño. The observed western equatorial Pacific westerly zonal stress anomalies (τax), which appeared between Nov. 1996 and May 1997 as a series of episodic bursts, were largely reproducible by an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) ensemble forced with observed SST. Retrospective forecasts using a hybrid coupled model (HCM) indicate that coupling only the part of τax linearly related to large-scale tropical Pacific SSTA is insufficient to capture the observed 1997 warming; but, accounting in the HCM for all the τa x that was connected to SST, recovers most of the strong SSTA warming. The AGCM-estimated range of stochastic τ ax forcing induces substantial dispersion in the forecasts, but does not obscure the large-scale warming in most HCM ensemble members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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