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The Double-Peaked El Niño and Its Physical Processes

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  • 1 Division of Environmental Science and Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, South Korea
  • 2 School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  • 3 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 4 ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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Abstract

Recently, El Niño diversity has been paid much attention because of its different global impacts. However, most studies have focused on a single warm peak in sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs), either in the central Pacific or the eastern Pacific Ocean. Here, we demonstrate from observational analyses that several recent El Niño events show double warm peaks in SSTA—called “double-peaked (DP) El Niño”—that have only been observed since 2000. The DP El Niño has two warm centers, which grow concurrently but separately, in both the central and eastern Pacific. In general, the atmospheric and oceanic patterns of the DP El Niño are similar to those of the warm-pool (WP) El Niño from the development phase, such that the central Pacific peak is developed by the zonal advective feedback and reduced wind speed anomalies. However, a distinctive difference exists in the eastern Pacific where the DP El Niño has a second SSTA peak. In addition, the DP El Niño shows more distinctive anomalous precipitation along the Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) when compared with the WP El Niño. We demonstrate that the peculiar precipitation anomalies along the Pacific ITCZ play a critical role in enhancing the equatorial westerly wind stress anomalies, which help to develop the eastern SSTA peak by deepening the thermocline in the eastern Pacific.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0402.s1.

© 2021 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: Jong-Seong Kug, jskug1@gmail.com

Abstract

Recently, El Niño diversity has been paid much attention because of its different global impacts. However, most studies have focused on a single warm peak in sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs), either in the central Pacific or the eastern Pacific Ocean. Here, we demonstrate from observational analyses that several recent El Niño events show double warm peaks in SSTA—called “double-peaked (DP) El Niño”—that have only been observed since 2000. The DP El Niño has two warm centers, which grow concurrently but separately, in both the central and eastern Pacific. In general, the atmospheric and oceanic patterns of the DP El Niño are similar to those of the warm-pool (WP) El Niño from the development phase, such that the central Pacific peak is developed by the zonal advective feedback and reduced wind speed anomalies. However, a distinctive difference exists in the eastern Pacific where the DP El Niño has a second SSTA peak. In addition, the DP El Niño shows more distinctive anomalous precipitation along the Pacific intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) when compared with the WP El Niño. We demonstrate that the peculiar precipitation anomalies along the Pacific ITCZ play a critical role in enhancing the equatorial westerly wind stress anomalies, which help to develop the eastern SSTA peak by deepening the thermocline in the eastern Pacific.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0402.s1.

© 2021 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: Jong-Seong Kug, jskug1@gmail.com

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