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Han-Ching Chen and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events tend to peak at the end of the calendar year, a phenomenon called ENSO phase locking. This phase locking is a fundamental ENSO property that is determined by its basic dynamics. The conceptual ENSO recharge oscillator (RO) model is adopted to examine the ENSO phase-locking behavior in terms of its peak time, strength of phase locking, and asymmetry between El Niño and La Niña events. The RO model reproduces the main phase-locking characteristics found in observations, and the results show that the phase locking of ENSO is mainly dominated by the seasonal modulation of ENSO growth/decay rate. In addition, the linear/nonlinear mechanism of ENSO phase preference/phase locking is investigated using RO model. The difference between the nonlinear phase-locking mechanism and linear phase-preference mechanism is largely smoothed out in the presence of noise forcing. Further, the impact on ENSO phase locking from annual cycle modulation of the growth/decay rate, stochastic forcing, nonlinearity, and linear frequency are examined in the RO model. The preferred month of ENSO peak time depends critically on the phase and strength of the seasonal modulation of the ENSO growth/decay rate. Furthermore, the strength of phase locking is mainly controlled by the linear growth/decay rate, the amplitude of seasonal modulation of growth/decay rate, the amplitude of noise, the SST-dependent factor of multiplicative noise, and the linear frequency. The asymmetry of the sharpness of ENSO phase locking is induced by the asymmetric effect of state-dependent noise forcing in El Niño and La Niña events.

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Han-Ching Chen, Chung-Hsiung Sui, Yu-Heng Tseng, and Bohua Huang

Abstract

This study investigates the sudden reversal of anomalous zonal equatorial transport above thermocline at the peak phase of ENSO. The oceanic processes associated with zonal transport are separated into low-frequency ENSO cycle and high-frequency oceanic wave processes. Both processes can generate a reversal of equatorial zonal current at the ENSO peak phase, which is a trigger for the rapid termination of ENSO events. For the low-frequency process, zonal transport exhibits slower and basinwide evolution. During the developing phase of El Niño (La Niña), eastward (westward) transport prevails in the central-eastern Pacific, which enhances ENSO. At the peak of ENSO, a basinwide reversal of the zonal transport resulting from the recharge–discharge process occurs and weakens the existing SST anomalies. High-frequency zonal transport presents clear eastward propagation related to Kelvin wave propagation at the equator, reflection at the eastern boundary, and the westward propagating Rossby waves. The major westerly wind bursts (easterly wind surges) occur in late boreal summer and fall with coincident downwelling (upwelling) Kelvin waves for El Niño (La Niña) events. After the peak of El Niño (La Niña), Kelvin waves reach the eastern boundary in boreal winter and reflect as off-equatorial Rossby waves; then, the zonal transport switches from eastward (westward) to westward (eastward). The high-frequency zonal transport can be represented by equatorial wave dynamics captured by the first three EOFs based on the high-pass-filtered equatorial thermocline. The transport anomaly during the decaying phase is dominated by the low-frequency process in El Niño. However, the transport anomaly is caused by both low- and high-frequency processes during La Niña.

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Han-Ching Chen, Chung-Hsiung Sui, Yu-Heng Tseng, and Bohua Huang

Abstract

The Simple Ocean Data Assimilation, version 2.2.4 (SODA 2.2.4), analysis for the period of 1960–2010 is used to study the variability of Pacific subtropical cells (STCs) and its causal relation with tropical climate variability. Results show that the interior STC transport into the equatorial basin through 9°S and 9°N is well connected with equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) (9°S–9°N, 180°–90°W). The highest correlation at interannual time scales is contributed by the western interior STC transport within 160°E and 130°W. It is known that the ENSO recharge–discharge cycle experiences five stages: the recharging stage, recharged stage, warmest SST stage, discharging stage, and discharged stage. A correlation analysis of interior STC transport convergence, equatorial warm water volume (WWV), wind stress curl, and SST identifies the time intervals between the five stages, which are 8, 10, 2, and 8 months, respectively. A composite analysis for El Niño–developing and La Niña–developing events is also performed. The composited ENSO evolutions are in accordance with the recharge–discharge theory and the corresponding time lags between the above denoted five stages are 4–12, 6, 2, and 4 months, respectively. For stronger El Niño events, the discharge due to interior STC transport at 9°N terminates earlier than that at 9°S because of the southward migration of westerly winds following the El Niño peak phase. This study clarifies subsurface transport processes and their time intervals, which are useful for refinement of theoretical models and for evaluating coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation model results.

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Han-Ching Chen, Zeng-Zhen Hu, Bohua Huang, and Chung-Hsiung Sui

Abstract

This study shows the sudden basinwide reversal of anomalous equatorial zonal transport above the thermocline at the peaking phase of ENSO triggers rapid termination of ENSO events. The anomalous equatorial zonal transport is controlled by the concavity of anomalous thermocline meridional structure across the equator. During the developing phase of ENSO, opposite zonal transport anomalies form in the western-central and central-eastern equatorial Pacific, respectively. Both are driven by the equatorial thermocline anomalies in response to zonal wind anomalies over the western-central equatorial ocean. At this stage, the anomalous zonal transport in the east enhances ENSO growth through zonal SST advection. In the mature phase of ENSO, off-equatorial thermocline depth anomalies become more dominant in the eastern Pacific because of the reflection of equatorial signals at the eastern boundary. As a result, the meridional concavity of the thermocline anomalies is reversed in the east. This change reverses zonal transport rapidly in the central-to-eastern equatorial Pacific, joining with the existing reversed zonal transport anomalies farther to the west, and forms a basinwide transport reversal throughout the equatorial Pacific. This basinwide transport reversal weakens the ENSO SST anomalies by reversed advection. More importantly, the reversed zonal transport reduces the existing zonal tilting of the equatorial thermocline and weakens its feedback to wind anomalies effectively. This basinwide reversal is built in at the peak phase of ENSO as an oceanic control on the evolution of both El Niño and La Niña events. The reversed zonal transport anomaly after the mature phase weakens El Niño in the eastern Pacific more efficiently than it weakens La Niña.

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