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Influence of El Niño on the Upper-Ocean Circulation in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean

Katja LohmannMax-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg, Germany

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Mojib LatifLeibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Kiel, Germany

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Abstract

This study investigates the influence of El Niño on the upper-ocean circulation in the tropical Atlantic Ocean (via changes in the Atlantic trade winds) by analyzing observed sea surface temperature (SST) together with an ocean general circulation model integration forced by the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. During periods with anomalously warm (cold) eastern equatorial Pacific SST, the southern Atlantic tropical cell is strengthened (weakened). The difference of the cell strength between El Niño and La Niña years is about 20% of the mean cell strength. However, the variability of the cell is not dominated by the remote forcing from the eastern equatorial Pacific but seems to be caused by intrinsic tropical Atlantic variability. A strengthening (weakening) for periods with anomalously warm (cold) eastern equatorial Pacific SST is also found for the zonal surface and subsurface currents. TOPEX/Poseidon altimetry data are used to validate the results based on the OGCM integration.

Corresponding author address: Katja Lohmann, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Thormohlensgate 47, 5006 Bergen, Norway. Email: katja.lohmann@nersc.no

Abstract

This study investigates the influence of El Niño on the upper-ocean circulation in the tropical Atlantic Ocean (via changes in the Atlantic trade winds) by analyzing observed sea surface temperature (SST) together with an ocean general circulation model integration forced by the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. During periods with anomalously warm (cold) eastern equatorial Pacific SST, the southern Atlantic tropical cell is strengthened (weakened). The difference of the cell strength between El Niño and La Niña years is about 20% of the mean cell strength. However, the variability of the cell is not dominated by the remote forcing from the eastern equatorial Pacific but seems to be caused by intrinsic tropical Atlantic variability. A strengthening (weakening) for periods with anomalously warm (cold) eastern equatorial Pacific SST is also found for the zonal surface and subsurface currents. TOPEX/Poseidon altimetry data are used to validate the results based on the OGCM integration.

Corresponding author address: Katja Lohmann, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Thormohlensgate 47, 5006 Bergen, Norway. Email: katja.lohmann@nersc.no

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