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Weakened Impact of the Developing El Niño on Tropical Indian Ocean Climate Variability under Global Warming

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  • 1 Institute for Environmental and Climate Research, Jinan University, Guangzhou, and Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
  • | 2 Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
  • | 3 Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster of Ministry of Education, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China, and International Pacific Research Center, and Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

El Niño induces an anomalous easterly wind along the equator and a pair of anomalous anticyclones straddling the equator over the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) during the autumn of its developing phase. Based on 30 coupled models participating in CMIP5, these atmospheric circulation anomalies over TIO are substantially weakened by about 12%–13% K−1 under global warming scenarios, associated with a weakened zonal gradient of the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly. The mechanism for the response is investigated based on a hierarchy of model experiments. Based on stand-alone atmospheric model experiments under uniform and patterned mean-state SST warming, the atmospheric circulation anomaly over TIO during the autumn of the developing El Niño is also substantially weakened by about 8% K−1 even if the interannual variability of SST remains exactly unchanged, suggesting that the primary cause resides in the atmosphere rather than the SST anomaly. The tropospheric static stability is robustly enhanced under global warming, and experiments performed by a linear baroclinic model show that a much weaker atmospheric circulation anomaly over TIO is stimulated by an unchanged diabatic heating anomaly under a more stable atmosphere. The weakened atmospheric circulation anomaly due to enhanced static stability weakens the zonal gradient of the SST anomaly within TIO through local air–sea interaction, and it acts to further weaken the atmospheric circulation anomaly. The enhanced static stability of the troposphere is probably the primary cause and the air–sea interaction within TIO is a secondary cause for the weakened impact of the developing El Niño on atmospheric circulation variability over TIO.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0165.s1.

© 2019 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. Tim Li, timli@hawaii.edu

Abstract

El Niño induces an anomalous easterly wind along the equator and a pair of anomalous anticyclones straddling the equator over the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) during the autumn of its developing phase. Based on 30 coupled models participating in CMIP5, these atmospheric circulation anomalies over TIO are substantially weakened by about 12%–13% K−1 under global warming scenarios, associated with a weakened zonal gradient of the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly. The mechanism for the response is investigated based on a hierarchy of model experiments. Based on stand-alone atmospheric model experiments under uniform and patterned mean-state SST warming, the atmospheric circulation anomaly over TIO during the autumn of the developing El Niño is also substantially weakened by about 8% K−1 even if the interannual variability of SST remains exactly unchanged, suggesting that the primary cause resides in the atmosphere rather than the SST anomaly. The tropospheric static stability is robustly enhanced under global warming, and experiments performed by a linear baroclinic model show that a much weaker atmospheric circulation anomaly over TIO is stimulated by an unchanged diabatic heating anomaly under a more stable atmosphere. The weakened atmospheric circulation anomaly due to enhanced static stability weakens the zonal gradient of the SST anomaly within TIO through local air–sea interaction, and it acts to further weaken the atmospheric circulation anomaly. The enhanced static stability of the troposphere is probably the primary cause and the air–sea interaction within TIO is a secondary cause for the weakened impact of the developing El Niño on atmospheric circulation variability over TIO.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0165.s1.

© 2019 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. Tim Li, timli@hawaii.edu

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