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An Asymmetry in the IOD and ENSO Teleconnection Pathway and Its Impact on Australian Climate

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  • 1 CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, and CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
  • | 2 Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Recent research has shown that the climatic impact from El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on middle latitudes west of the western Pacific (e.g., southeast Australia) during austral spring (September–November) is conducted via the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO). However, it is not clear whether this impact pathway is symmetric about the positive and negative phases of ENSO and the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). It is shown that a strong asymmetry does exist. For ENSO, only the impact from El Niño is conducted through the TIO pathway; the impact from La Niña is delivered through the Pacific–South America pattern. For the IOD, a greater convection anomaly and wave train response occurs during positive IOD (pIOD) events than during negative IOD (nIOD) events. This “impact asymmetry” is consistent with the positive skewness of the IOD, principally due to a negative skewness of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the east IOD (IODE) pole. In the IODE region, convection anomalies are more sensitive to a per unit change of cold SST anomalies than to the same unit change of warm SST anomalies. This study shows that the IOD skewness occurs despite the greater damping, rather than due to a breakdown of this damping as suggested by previous studies. This IOD impact asymmetry provides an explanation for much of the reduction in spring rainfall over southeast Australia during the 2000s. Key to this rainfall reduction is the increased occurrences of pIOD events, more so than the lack of nIOD events.

Corresponding author address: Wenju Cai, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, PMB 1, Aspendale VIC 3195, Australia. E-mail: wenju.cai@csiro.au

Abstract

Recent research has shown that the climatic impact from El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on middle latitudes west of the western Pacific (e.g., southeast Australia) during austral spring (September–November) is conducted via the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO). However, it is not clear whether this impact pathway is symmetric about the positive and negative phases of ENSO and the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD). It is shown that a strong asymmetry does exist. For ENSO, only the impact from El Niño is conducted through the TIO pathway; the impact from La Niña is delivered through the Pacific–South America pattern. For the IOD, a greater convection anomaly and wave train response occurs during positive IOD (pIOD) events than during negative IOD (nIOD) events. This “impact asymmetry” is consistent with the positive skewness of the IOD, principally due to a negative skewness of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the east IOD (IODE) pole. In the IODE region, convection anomalies are more sensitive to a per unit change of cold SST anomalies than to the same unit change of warm SST anomalies. This study shows that the IOD skewness occurs despite the greater damping, rather than due to a breakdown of this damping as suggested by previous studies. This IOD impact asymmetry provides an explanation for much of the reduction in spring rainfall over southeast Australia during the 2000s. Key to this rainfall reduction is the increased occurrences of pIOD events, more so than the lack of nIOD events.

Corresponding author address: Wenju Cai, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, PMB 1, Aspendale VIC 3195, Australia. E-mail: wenju.cai@csiro.au
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