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Stronger Increase in the Frequency of Extreme Convective than Extreme Warm El Nino Events under Greenhouse Warming
April 09,2020

Published in JOURNAL OF CLIMATE JAN 2020

Since 1979, three extreme El Nino events occurred, in 1982/83, 1997/98, and 2015/16, with pronounced impacts that disrupted global weather patterns, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems. Although all three episodes are referred to as strong equatorial eastern Pacific (EP) El Nino events, the 2015/16 event is considered a mixed regime of both EP and central Pacific (CP) El Nino. During such extreme events, sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies peak over the EP region, hereafter referred to as an extreme warm El Nino (ExtWarmEN) event. Simultaneously, the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) moves southward to the usually dry and cold Nino-3 region, resulting in dramatic rainfall increases to more than 5 mm day(-1) averaged over boreal winter, referred to as an extreme convective El Nino (ExtConEN) event. However, in climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that are able to simulate both types of events, ExtConEN events are found not to always coincide with ExtWarmEN events and the disassociation becomes more distinct under greenhouse warming when the increased frequency of ExtConEN events is notably larger than that of ExtWarmEN events. The disassociation highlights the role of eastward migration of western Pacific convection and equatorward shift of the South Pacific convergence zone associated with the faster warming over the EP region as a result of greenhouse warming.

Wang, G., W. Cai, and A. Santoso, 2020: Stronger Increase in the Frequency of Extreme Convective than Extreme Warm El Niño Events under Greenhouse Warming. J. Climate, 33, 675–690, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0376.1

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