Greenhouse warming and internal variability increase extreme and central Pacific El Niño frequency since 1980
Ruyu Gan, Qi Liu, Gang Huang, Kaiming Hu & Xichen Li
Published in Nature Communications, JAN 2023
El Niño has been recorded to change its properties since the 1980s, characterized by more common extreme El Niño and Central Pacific (CP) El Niño events. However, it is still unclear whether such change is externally forced or part of the natural variability. Here, we find that the frequency of the extreme and CP El Niño events also increased during the period 1875–1905, when the anthropogenic CO2 concentration was relatively lower, but with a positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Models and palaeoclimate proxies reveal that a positive AMO enhances the zonal sea surface temperature gradient in the CP, which strengthens zonal advective feedback, favoring extreme and CP El Niño development. Moreover, we estimate that internal variability contributed to ~65% of the increasingly extreme and CP El Niño events, while anthropogenic forcing has made our globe experience ~1 more extreme and ~2 more CP events over the past four decades.
Gan, R., Liu, Q., Huang, G. et al. Greenhouse warming and internal variability increase extreme and central Pacific El Niño frequency since 1980. Nat Commun 14, 394 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-36053-7