The impact of ENSO on atmospheric intraseasonal variability as inferred from observations and GCM simulations

Chi Yung Tam, Ngar Cheung Lau

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14 Scopus citations


The impact of the Elño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the atmospheric intraseasonal variability in the North Pacific is assessed, with emphasis on how ENSO modulates midlatitude circulation anomalies associated with the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) in the Tropics and the westward-traveling patterns (WTP) in high latitudes. The database for this study consists of the output of a general circulation model (GCM) experiment subjected to temporally varying sea surface temperature (SST) forcing in the tropical Pacific, and observational reanalysis products. Diagnosis of the GCM experiment indicates a key region in the North Pacific over which the year-to-year variation of intraseasonal activity is sensitive to the SST conditions in the Tropics. In both the simulated and observed atmospheres, the development phase of the dominant circulation anomaly in this region is characterized by incoming wave activity from northeast Asia and the subtropical western Pacific. Southeastward dispersion from the North Pacific to North America can be found in later phases of the life cycle of the anomaly. The spatial pattern of this recurrent extratropical anomaly contains regional features that are similar to those appearing in composite charts for prominent episodes of the MJO and the WTP. Both the GCM and reanalysis data indicate that the amplitude of intraseasonal variability near the key region, as well as incoming wave activity in the western Pacific and dispersion to the western United States, are enhanced in cold ENSO events as compared to warm events. Similar modulations of the MJO-related circulation patterns in the extratropics by ENSO forcing are discernible in the model simulation. It is inferred from these findings that ENSO can influence the North Pacific intraseasonal activity through its effects on the evolution of convective anomalies in the tropical western Pacific. On the other hand, there is little modification by ENSO of the circulation features associated with the WTP. The combined effect of the MJO and WTP on the intraseasonal circulation in the North Pacific is studied. Based on multiple regression analysis, it is found that the MJO and WTP make comparable contributions to the variability in the midlatitude North Pacific. These contributions may be treated as a linear combination of the anomalies attributed to the MJO and WTP separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1902-1924
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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