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Causes of ENSO Weakening during the Mid-Holocene

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  • 1 Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 2 International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, and International Laboratory on Climate and Environment Change and Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
  • 3 Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, International Laboratory on Climate and Environment Change and Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing, and Joint Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Change at Chengdu University of Information Technology, Chengdu, China
  • 4 Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

The causes of the change in amplitude of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during the mid-Holocene were investigated by diagnosing the model simulations that participated in the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project phases 2 and 3. Consistent with paleoclimate records, 20 out of the 28 models reproduced weaker-than-preindustrial ENSO amplitude during the mid-Holocene. Two representative models were then selected to explore the underlying mechanisms of air–sea feedback processes. A mixed layer heat budget diagnosis indicated that the weakened ENSO amplitude was primarily attributed to the decrease in the Bjerknes thermocline feedback, while the meridional advective feedback also played a role. During the mid-Holocene, the thermocline response to a unit anomalous zonal wind stress forcing in the equatorial Pacific weakened in both models because of the increased ENSO meridional scale. A further investigation revealed that the greater ENSO meridional width was caused by the strengthening of the Pacific subtropical cell, which was attributed to the enhanced mean trade wind that resulted from the intensified Asian and African monsoon rainfall and associated large-scale east–west circulation in response to the mid-Holocene orbital forcing.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0899.s1.

Corresponding author: Zhiping Tian, tianzhiping@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

The causes of the change in amplitude of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during the mid-Holocene were investigated by diagnosing the model simulations that participated in the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project phases 2 and 3. Consistent with paleoclimate records, 20 out of the 28 models reproduced weaker-than-preindustrial ENSO amplitude during the mid-Holocene. Two representative models were then selected to explore the underlying mechanisms of air–sea feedback processes. A mixed layer heat budget diagnosis indicated that the weakened ENSO amplitude was primarily attributed to the decrease in the Bjerknes thermocline feedback, while the meridional advective feedback also played a role. During the mid-Holocene, the thermocline response to a unit anomalous zonal wind stress forcing in the equatorial Pacific weakened in both models because of the increased ENSO meridional scale. A further investigation revealed that the greater ENSO meridional width was caused by the strengthening of the Pacific subtropical cell, which was attributed to the enhanced mean trade wind that resulted from the intensified Asian and African monsoon rainfall and associated large-scale east–west circulation in response to the mid-Holocene orbital forcing.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0899.s1.

Corresponding author: Zhiping Tian, tianzhiping@mail.iap.ac.cn

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