Changes in the Tropical Pacific SST Trend from CMIP3 to CMIP5 and Its Implication of ENSO

Sang-Wook Yeh Department of Environmental Marine Science, Hanyang University, Ansan, South Korea

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Yoo-Geun Ham Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, and Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research Studies and Investigations, Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Maryland

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June-Yi Lee Department of Meteorology, and International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

This study assesses the changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) trend and ENSO amplitude by comparing a historical run of the World Climate Research Programme Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) phase-5 multimodel ensemble dataset (CMIP5) and the CMIP phase-3 dataset (CMIP3). The results indicate that the magnitude of the SST trend in the tropical Pacific basin has been significantly reduced from CMIP3 to CMIP5, which may be associated with the overestimation of the response to natural forcing and aerosols by including Earth system models in CMIP5. Moreover, the patterns of tropical warming over the second half of the twentieth century have changed from a La Niña–like structure in CMIP3 to an El Niño–like structure in CMIP5. Further analysis indicates that such changes in the background state of the tropical Pacific and an increase in the sensitivity of the atmospheric response to the SST changes in the eastern tropical Pacific have influenced the ENSO properties. In particular, the ratio of the SST anomaly variance in the eastern and western tropical Pacific increased from CMIP3 to CMIP5, indicating that a center of action associated with the ENSO amplitude has shifted to the east.

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Publication Number 8717 and International Pacific Research Center Publication Number 902.

Corresponding author address: Yoo-Geun Ham, Goddard Space Flight Center, Mail Code 610.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: yoo-geun.ham@nasa.gov

Abstract

This study assesses the changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) trend and ENSO amplitude by comparing a historical run of the World Climate Research Programme Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) phase-5 multimodel ensemble dataset (CMIP5) and the CMIP phase-3 dataset (CMIP3). The results indicate that the magnitude of the SST trend in the tropical Pacific basin has been significantly reduced from CMIP3 to CMIP5, which may be associated with the overestimation of the response to natural forcing and aerosols by including Earth system models in CMIP5. Moreover, the patterns of tropical warming over the second half of the twentieth century have changed from a La Niña–like structure in CMIP3 to an El Niño–like structure in CMIP5. Further analysis indicates that such changes in the background state of the tropical Pacific and an increase in the sensitivity of the atmospheric response to the SST changes in the eastern tropical Pacific have influenced the ENSO properties. In particular, the ratio of the SST anomaly variance in the eastern and western tropical Pacific increased from CMIP3 to CMIP5, indicating that a center of action associated with the ENSO amplitude has shifted to the east.

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Publication Number 8717 and International Pacific Research Center Publication Number 902.

Corresponding author address: Yoo-Geun Ham, Goddard Space Flight Center, Mail Code 610.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: yoo-geun.ham@nasa.gov
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