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Dillon J. Amaya, Yu Kosaka, Wenyu Zhou, Yu Zhang, Shang-Ping Xie, and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Studies have indicated that North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability can significantly modulate El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), but there has been little effort to put extratropical–tropical interactions into the context of historical events. To quantify the role of the North Pacific in pacing the timing and magnitude of observed ENSO, we use a fully coupled climate model to produce an ensemble of North Pacific Ocean–Global Atmosphere (nPOGA) SST pacemaker simulations. In nPOGA, SST anomalies are restored back to observations in the North Pacific (>15°N) but are free to evolve throughout the rest of the globe. We find that the North Pacific SST has significantly influenced observed ENSO variability, accounting for approximately 15% of the total variance in boreal fall and winter. The connection between the North and tropical Pacific arises from two physical pathways: 1) a wind–evaporation–SST (WES) propagating mechanism, and 2) a Gill-like atmospheric response associated with anomalous deep convection in boreal summer and fall, which we refer to as the summer deep convection (SDC) response. The SDC response accounts for 25% of the observed zonal wind variability around the equatorial date line. On an event-by-event basis, nPOGA most closely reproduces the 2014/15 and the 2015/16 El Niños. In particular, we show that the 2015 Pacific meridional mode event increased wind forcing along the equator by 20%, potentially contributing to the extreme nature of the 2015/16 El Niño. Our results illustrate the significant role of extratropical noise in pacing the initiation and magnitude of ENSO events and may improve the predictability of ENSO on seasonal time scales.

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Dillon J. Amaya, Michael A. Alexander, Antonietta Capotondi, Clara Deser, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Arthur J. Miller, and Nathan J. Mantua
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Yu Zhang, Shiyun Yu, Dillon J. Amaya, Yu Kosaka, Sarah M. Larson, Xudong Wang, Jun-Chao Yang, Malte F. Stuecker, Shang-Ping Xie, Arthur J. Miller, and Xiaopei Lin

Abstract

Investigating Pacific meridional modes (PMMs) without the influence of tropical Pacific variability is technically difficult if based on observations or fully coupled model simulations due to their overlapping spatial structures. To confront this issue, the present study investigates both the North PMM (NPMM) and South PMM (SPMM) in terms of their associated atmospheric forcing and response processes based on a mechanically decoupled climate model simulation. In this experiment, the climatological wind stress is prescribed over the tropical Pacific, which effectively removes dynamically coupled tropical Pacific variability (e.g., El Niño–Southern Oscillation). Interannual NPMM in this experiment is forced not only by the North Pacific Oscillation but also by a North Pacific tripole (NPT) pattern of atmospheric internal variability, which primarily forces decadal NPMM variability. Interannual and decadal variability of the SPMM is partly forced by the South Pacific Oscillation. In turn, both interannual and decadal NPMM variability can excite atmospheric teleconnections over the Northern Hemisphere extratropics by influencing the meridional displacement of the climatological intertropical convergence zone throughout the whole year. Similarly, both interannual and decadal SPMM variability can also excite atmospheric teleconnections over the Southern Hemisphere extratropics by extending or shrinking the climatological South Pacific convergence zone in all seasons. Our results highlight a new poleward pathway by which both the NPMM and SPMM feed back to the extratropical climate, in addition to the equatorward influence on tropical Pacific variability.

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