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Predictability of Tropical Pacific Decadal Variability in an Intermediate Model

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  • 1 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

The Zebiak–Cane (ZC) model for simulation of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation is shown to be capable of producing sequences of variability that exhibit shifts in the time-mean state of the eastern equatorial Pacific that resemble observations of tropical Pacific decadal variability. The model's performance in predicting these shifts is compared to two naive forecasting strategies. It is found that the ZC model consistently outperforms the two naive forecasts that serve as a null hypothesis in assessing the significance of results. Forecasts initialized during anomalously warm and anomalously cold decades are shown to have the highest predictability.

These modeling results suggest that, to a moderate extent, the state of the tropical Pacific in one decade can predetermine its time-mean state in the following decade. However, even in this idealized context decadal forecasting skill is modest. Results are discussed in the context of their implications for the ongoing debate over the origin of decadal variations in the Pacific.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alicia R. Karspeck, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 301F Oceanography, Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10964. Email: aliciak@ldeo.columbia.edu

Abstract

The Zebiak–Cane (ZC) model for simulation of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation is shown to be capable of producing sequences of variability that exhibit shifts in the time-mean state of the eastern equatorial Pacific that resemble observations of tropical Pacific decadal variability. The model's performance in predicting these shifts is compared to two naive forecasting strategies. It is found that the ZC model consistently outperforms the two naive forecasts that serve as a null hypothesis in assessing the significance of results. Forecasts initialized during anomalously warm and anomalously cold decades are shown to have the highest predictability.

These modeling results suggest that, to a moderate extent, the state of the tropical Pacific in one decade can predetermine its time-mean state in the following decade. However, even in this idealized context decadal forecasting skill is modest. Results are discussed in the context of their implications for the ongoing debate over the origin of decadal variations in the Pacific.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alicia R. Karspeck, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 301F Oceanography, Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10964. Email: aliciak@ldeo.columbia.edu

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