A Nonstationary ENSO–NAO Relationship Due to AMO Modulation

Wenjun Zhang Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environment Change (ILCEC), Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters, Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Xuebin Mei Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environment Change (ILCEC), Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters, Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Xin Geng Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environment Change (ILCEC), Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters, Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

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Andrew G. Turner National Center for Atmospheric Science, and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Fei-Fei Jin Department of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abstract

Many previous studies have demonstrated a high uncertainty in the relationship between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). In the present work, decadal modulation by the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is investigated as a possible cause of the nonstationary ENSO–NAO relationship based on observed and reanalysis data. It is found that the negative ENSO–NAO correlation in late winter is significant only when ENSO and the AMO are in phase (AMO+/El Niño and AMO−/La Niña). However, no significant ENSO-driven atmospheric anomalies can be observed over the North Atlantic when ENSO and the AMO are out of phase (AMO−/El Niño and AMO+/La Niña). Further analysis indicates that the sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) in the tropical North Atlantic (TNA) plays an essential role in this modulating effect. Because of broadly analogous TNA SSTA responses to both ENSO and the AMO during late winter, a warm SSTA in the TNA is evident when El Niño occurs during a positive AMO phase, resulting in a significantly weakened NAO, and vice versa when La Niña occurs during a negative AMO phase. In contrast, neither the TNA SSTA nor the NAO shows a prominent change under out-of-phase combinations of ENSO and AMO. The AMO modulation and the associated effect of the TNA SSTA are shown to be well reproduced by historical simulations of the HadCM3 coupled model and further verified by forced experiments using an atmospheric circulation model. These offer hope that similar models will be able to make predictions for the NAO when appropriately initialized.

© 2018 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: Dr. Wenjun Zhang, zhangwj@nuist.edu.cn

Abstract

Many previous studies have demonstrated a high uncertainty in the relationship between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). In the present work, decadal modulation by the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is investigated as a possible cause of the nonstationary ENSO–NAO relationship based on observed and reanalysis data. It is found that the negative ENSO–NAO correlation in late winter is significant only when ENSO and the AMO are in phase (AMO+/El Niño and AMO−/La Niña). However, no significant ENSO-driven atmospheric anomalies can be observed over the North Atlantic when ENSO and the AMO are out of phase (AMO−/El Niño and AMO+/La Niña). Further analysis indicates that the sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) in the tropical North Atlantic (TNA) plays an essential role in this modulating effect. Because of broadly analogous TNA SSTA responses to both ENSO and the AMO during late winter, a warm SSTA in the TNA is evident when El Niño occurs during a positive AMO phase, resulting in a significantly weakened NAO, and vice versa when La Niña occurs during a negative AMO phase. In contrast, neither the TNA SSTA nor the NAO shows a prominent change under out-of-phase combinations of ENSO and AMO. The AMO modulation and the associated effect of the TNA SSTA are shown to be well reproduced by historical simulations of the HadCM3 coupled model and further verified by forced experiments using an atmospheric circulation model. These offer hope that similar models will be able to make predictions for the NAO when appropriately initialized.

© 2018 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: Dr. Wenjun Zhang, zhangwj@nuist.edu.cn
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