Subseasonal atmospheric variability and El Niño waveguide warming: Observed effects of the Madden-Julian oscillation and westerly wind events

Andrew M. Chiodi, D. E. Harrison, Gabriel Andres Vecchi

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Abstract

Westerly wind events (WWEs) have previously been shown to initiate equatorial Pacific waveguide warming. The relationship between WWEs and Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) activity, as well as the role of MJO events in initiating waveguide warming, is reconsidered here over the 1986-2010 period. WWEs are identified in observations of near-surface zonal winds using an objective scheme. MJO events are defined using a widely used index, and 64 are identified that occur when the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is in its neutral state. Of these MJO events, 43 have one or more embeddedWWEsand 21 do not. The evolution of sea surface temperature anomaly over the equatorial Pacific waveguide following the westerly surface wind phase of the MJO over the western equatorial Pacific is examined.Waveguide warming is found for the MJO withWWEevents in similar magnitudes as following the WWEsnot embedded in an MJO. There is very little statistically significant waveguide warming following MJO events that do not contain an embedded WWE. The observed SST anomaly changes are well reproduced in an ocean general circulation model forced with the respective composite wind stress anomalies. Further, it is found that the occurrence of an MJO event does not significantly affect the likelihood that a WWE will occur. These results extend and confirm the earlier results of Vecchi with a near doubling of the period of study. It is suggested that understanding the sources and predictability of tropical Pacific westerly wind events remains essential to improving predictions of the onset of El Niño events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3619-3642
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume27
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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