Interdecadal Modulation of ENSO Teleconnections

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  • 1 Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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Seasonal climate anomalies over North America exhibit rather large variability between years characterized by the same ENSO phase. This lack of consistency reduces potential statistically based ENSO-related climate predictability. The authors show that the North Pacific oscillation (NPO) exerts a modulating effect on ENSO teleconnections. Sea level pressure (SLP) data over the North Pacific, North America, and the North Atlantic and daily rainfall records in the contiguous United States are used to demonstrate that typical ENSO signals tend to be stronger and more stable during preferred phases of the NPO. Typical El Niño patterns (e.g., low pressure over the northeastern Pacific, dry northwest, and wet southwest, etc.) are strong and consistent only during the high phase of the NPO, which is associated with an anomalously cold northwestern Pacific. The generally reversed SLP and precipitation patterns during La Niña winters are consistent only during the low NPO phase. Climatic anomalies tend to be weak and spatially incoherent during low NPO–E1 Niño and high NPO–La Niña winters. These results suggest that confidence in ENSO-based long-range climate forecasts for North America should reflect interdecadal climatic anomalies in the North Pacific.

Corresponding author address: Alexander Gershunov, Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0224. E-mail: sasha@ucsd.edu

Seasonal climate anomalies over North America exhibit rather large variability between years characterized by the same ENSO phase. This lack of consistency reduces potential statistically based ENSO-related climate predictability. The authors show that the North Pacific oscillation (NPO) exerts a modulating effect on ENSO teleconnections. Sea level pressure (SLP) data over the North Pacific, North America, and the North Atlantic and daily rainfall records in the contiguous United States are used to demonstrate that typical ENSO signals tend to be stronger and more stable during preferred phases of the NPO. Typical El Niño patterns (e.g., low pressure over the northeastern Pacific, dry northwest, and wet southwest, etc.) are strong and consistent only during the high phase of the NPO, which is associated with an anomalously cold northwestern Pacific. The generally reversed SLP and precipitation patterns during La Niña winters are consistent only during the low NPO phase. Climatic anomalies tend to be weak and spatially incoherent during low NPO–E1 Niño and high NPO–La Niña winters. These results suggest that confidence in ENSO-based long-range climate forecasts for North America should reflect interdecadal climatic anomalies in the North Pacific.

Corresponding author address: Alexander Gershunov, Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0224. E-mail: sasha@ucsd.edu
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