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Enlarged Asymmetry of Tropical Pacific Rainfall Anomalies Induced by El Niño and La Niña under Global Warming

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  • 1 Center for Monsoon System Research, and LASG, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • | 2 Plateau Atmosphere and Environment Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, College of Atmospheric Sciences, Chengdu University of Information Technology, Chengdu, China
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Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is one of the most important sources of climate interannual variability. A prominent characteristic of ENSO is the asymmetric, or so-called nonlinear, local rainfall response to El Niño (EN) and La Niña (LN), in which the maximum rainfall anomalies during EN are located farther east than those during LN. In this study, the changes in rainfall anomalies during EN and LN are examined based on the multimodel ensemble mean results of 32 CMIP5 models under the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario. It is found that robust EN–LN asymmetric changes in rainfall anomalies exist. The rainfall anomalies during EN and LN both shift eastward and intensify under global warming, but the eastward shift during EN is farther east than that during LN. A simplified moisture budget decomposition method is applied to study the mechanism of the asymmetric response. The results show that the robust increase in mean-state moisture can enlarge the EN–LN asymmetry of the rainfall anomalies, and the spatial relative changes in mean-state SST with an El Niño–like pattern can shift the rainfall anomalies farther east during EN than during LN, enlarging the difference in the zonal locations of the rainfall response to EN and LN. The role of the relative changes in mean-state SST can also be interpreted as follows: the decreased zonal gradient of mean-state SST due to El Niño–like warming leads to a larger EN–LN asymmetry of rainfall anomalies under a future warming climate.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0427.1.s1.

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

Corresponding author e-mail: Dr. Ping Huang, huangping@mail.iap.ac.cn

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is one of the most important sources of climate interannual variability. A prominent characteristic of ENSO is the asymmetric, or so-called nonlinear, local rainfall response to El Niño (EN) and La Niña (LN), in which the maximum rainfall anomalies during EN are located farther east than those during LN. In this study, the changes in rainfall anomalies during EN and LN are examined based on the multimodel ensemble mean results of 32 CMIP5 models under the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenario. It is found that robust EN–LN asymmetric changes in rainfall anomalies exist. The rainfall anomalies during EN and LN both shift eastward and intensify under global warming, but the eastward shift during EN is farther east than that during LN. A simplified moisture budget decomposition method is applied to study the mechanism of the asymmetric response. The results show that the robust increase in mean-state moisture can enlarge the EN–LN asymmetry of the rainfall anomalies, and the spatial relative changes in mean-state SST with an El Niño–like pattern can shift the rainfall anomalies farther east during EN than during LN, enlarging the difference in the zonal locations of the rainfall response to EN and LN. The role of the relative changes in mean-state SST can also be interpreted as follows: the decreased zonal gradient of mean-state SST due to El Niño–like warming leads to a larger EN–LN asymmetry of rainfall anomalies under a future warming climate.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0427.1.s1.

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

Corresponding author e-mail: Dr. Ping Huang, huangping@mail.iap.ac.cn

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