Disentangling the Impact of ENSO and Indian Ocean Variability on the Regional Climate of Bangladesh: Implications for Cholera Risk

Benjamin A. Cash Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

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Xavier Rodó Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

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James L. Kinter III Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

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Md Yunus International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Abstract

Recent studies arising from both statistical analysis and dynamical disease models indicate that there is a link between the incidence of cholera, a paradigmatic waterborne bacterial illness endemic to Bangladesh, and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Cholera incidence typically increases following boreal winter El Niño events for the period 1973–2001. Observational and model analyses find that Bangladesh summer rainfall is enhanced following winter El Niño events, providing a plausible physical link between El Niño and cholera incidence. However, rainfall and cholera incidence do not increase following every winter El Niño event. Substantial variations in Bangladesh precipitation also occur in simulations in which identical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies are prescribed in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. Bangladesh summer precipitation is thus not uniquely determined by forcing from the tropical Pacific, with significant implications for predictions of cholera risk.

Nonparametric statistical analysis is used to identify regions of SST anomalies associated with variations in Bangladesh rainfall in an ensemble of pacemaker simulations. The authors find that differences in the response of Bangladesh summer precipitation to winter El Niño events are strongly associated with the persistence of warm SST anomalies in the central Pacific. Also there are significant differences in the SST patterns associated with positive and negative Bangladesh rainfall anomalies, indicating that the response is not fully linear. SST anomalies in the Indian Ocean also modulate the influence of the tropical Pacific, with colder Indian Ocean SST tending to enhance Bangladesh precipitation relative to warm Indian Ocean SST for identical conditions in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. This influence is not fully linear. Forecasts of Bangladesh rainfall and cholera risk may thus be improved by considering the Niño-3 and Niño-4 indices separately, rather than the Niño-3.4 index alone. Additional skill may also be gained by incorporating information on the southeast Indian Ocean and by updating the forecast with information on the evolution of the SST anomalies into spring.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin A. Cash, Suite 302, 4041 Powder Mill Road, Calverton, MD 20705. Email: bcash@cola.iges.org

Abstract

Recent studies arising from both statistical analysis and dynamical disease models indicate that there is a link between the incidence of cholera, a paradigmatic waterborne bacterial illness endemic to Bangladesh, and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Cholera incidence typically increases following boreal winter El Niño events for the period 1973–2001. Observational and model analyses find that Bangladesh summer rainfall is enhanced following winter El Niño events, providing a plausible physical link between El Niño and cholera incidence. However, rainfall and cholera incidence do not increase following every winter El Niño event. Substantial variations in Bangladesh precipitation also occur in simulations in which identical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies are prescribed in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. Bangladesh summer precipitation is thus not uniquely determined by forcing from the tropical Pacific, with significant implications for predictions of cholera risk.

Nonparametric statistical analysis is used to identify regions of SST anomalies associated with variations in Bangladesh rainfall in an ensemble of pacemaker simulations. The authors find that differences in the response of Bangladesh summer precipitation to winter El Niño events are strongly associated with the persistence of warm SST anomalies in the central Pacific. Also there are significant differences in the SST patterns associated with positive and negative Bangladesh rainfall anomalies, indicating that the response is not fully linear. SST anomalies in the Indian Ocean also modulate the influence of the tropical Pacific, with colder Indian Ocean SST tending to enhance Bangladesh precipitation relative to warm Indian Ocean SST for identical conditions in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. This influence is not fully linear. Forecasts of Bangladesh rainfall and cholera risk may thus be improved by considering the Niño-3 and Niño-4 indices separately, rather than the Niño-3.4 index alone. Additional skill may also be gained by incorporating information on the southeast Indian Ocean and by updating the forecast with information on the evolution of the SST anomalies into spring.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin A. Cash, Suite 302, 4041 Powder Mill Road, Calverton, MD 20705. Email: bcash@cola.iges.org

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