ham_aosc_abstract - Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Sea surface temperature in the north tropical Atlantic as a trigger
for El Niño-Southern Oscillation events
Yoo-Geun Ham (NASA/GSFC) : yoo-geun.ham@nasa.gov
El Niño events, the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), are known to
affect other tropical ocean basins through teleconnections. Conversely, mounting evidence
suggests that temperature variability in the Atlantic Ocean may also influence ENSO
variability. Here we use reanalysis data and general circulation models to show that sea
surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the North Tropical Atlantic during the boreal spring
can serve as a trigger for ENSO events. We identify a subtropical teleconnection in which
spring warming in the North Tropical Atlantic can induce a low-level cyclonic atmospheric
flow over the eastern Pacific that in turn produces a low-level anticyclonic flow over the
western Pacific during the following months. This flow generates easterly winds over the
western equatorial Pacific that cools the equatorial Pacific and may trigger a La Niña event
during the following winter. Moreover, El Niño events, led by cold anomalies in the North
Tropical Atlantic tend to be warm pool El Niño with a centre of action located in the central
Pacific, rather than the canonical El Niño events. We suggest that the identification of
temperature anomalies in the North Tropical Atlantic could help to forecast the development
of different types of El Niño events.