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Sijia Lou, Yang Yang, Hailong Wang, Jian Lu, Steven J. Smith, Fukai Liu, and Philip J. Rasch


El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the leading mode of Earth’s climate variability at interannual time scales with profound ecological and societal impacts, and it is projected to intensify in many climate models as the climate warms under the forcing of increasing CO2 concentration. Since the preindustrial era, black carbon (BC) emissions have substantially increased in the Northern Hemisphere. But how BC aerosol forcing may influence the occurrence of the extreme ENSO events has rarely been investigated. In this study, using simulations of a global climate model, we show that increases in BC emissions from both the midlatitudes and Arctic weaken latitudinal temperature gradients and northward heat transport, decrease tropical energy divergence, and increase sea surface temperature over the tropical oceans, with a surprising consequential increase in the frequency of extreme ENSO events. A corollary of this study is that reducing BC emissions might serve to mitigate the possible increasing frequency of extreme ENSO events under greenhouse warming, if the modeling result can be translated into the climate in reality.

Open access