A review of interdecadal changes in the nonlinearity of the El Ninño-Southern Oscillation

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Abstract

Many features of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) display significant interdecadal changes. These include general characteristics such as amplitude, period, and developing features, and also nonlinearities, especially the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry. A review of previous studies on the interdecadal changes in the ENSO nonlinearities is provided. In particular, the methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities, their possible driving mechanisms, and their interdecadal changes are discussed. Two methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities are introduced; the maximum potential intensity, which refers to the upper and lower bounds of the cold tongue temperature, and the skewness, which represents the asymmetry of a probability density function. For example, positive skewness (a strong El Niño vs. a weak La Niña) of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is dominant over the eastern tropical Pacific, with an increase seen during recent decades (e.g., 1980-2000). This positive skewness can be understood as a result of several nonlinear processes. These include the warming effect on both El Niño and La Nĩna by nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH), which intensifies El Niño and suppresses La Niña; the asymmetric negative feedback due to tropical oceanic instability waves, which has a relatively stronger influence on the La Niña event; the nonlinear physics of the ocean mixed layer; the Madden-Julian-Oscillation/Westerly-Wind-Burst and ENSO interaction; the biological-physical feedback process; and the nonlinear responses of the tropical atmospheric convection to El Niño and La Niña conditions. The skewness of the tropical eastern Pacific SST anomalies and the intensities of the above-mentioned mechanisms have both experienced clear decadal changes in a dynamically associated manner. In particular, there is a dynamic linkage between the decadal changes in the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry and those in NDH. This linkage is based on the recent decadal changes in mean climate states, which provided a favorable condition for thermocline feedback rather than for zonal advection feedback, and thus promoted the eastward propagation of the ENSO-related atmospheric and oceanic fields. The eastward propagating ENSO mode easily produces a positive NDH, resulting in asymmetric ENSO events in which El Niño conditions are stronger than La Niña conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-40
Number of pages12
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Volume97
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan 1

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Southern Oscillation
nonlinearity
El Nino-Southern Oscillation
skewness
asymmetry
heating
temperature anomaly
sea surface temperature
atmospheric convection
Madden-Julian oscillation
general characteristics
probability density function
thermocline
westerly
mixed layer
advection
physics
warming
climate
ocean

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

Cite this

@article{a84d2d6169b543ffb9572d35510327e4,
title = "A review of interdecadal changes in the nonlinearity of the El Nin{\~n}o-Southern Oscillation",
abstract = "Many features of the El Ni{\~n}o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) display significant interdecadal changes. These include general characteristics such as amplitude, period, and developing features, and also nonlinearities, especially the El Ni{\~n}o-La Ni{\~n}a asymmetry. A review of previous studies on the interdecadal changes in the ENSO nonlinearities is provided. In particular, the methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities, their possible driving mechanisms, and their interdecadal changes are discussed. Two methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities are introduced; the maximum potential intensity, which refers to the upper and lower bounds of the cold tongue temperature, and the skewness, which represents the asymmetry of a probability density function. For example, positive skewness (a strong El Ni{\~n}o vs. a weak La Ni{\~n}a) of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is dominant over the eastern tropical Pacific, with an increase seen during recent decades (e.g., 1980-2000). This positive skewness can be understood as a result of several nonlinear processes. These include the warming effect on both El Ni{\~n}o and La Nĩna by nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH), which intensifies El Ni{\~n}o and suppresses La Ni{\~n}a; the asymmetric negative feedback due to tropical oceanic instability waves, which has a relatively stronger influence on the La Ni{\~n}a event; the nonlinear physics of the ocean mixed layer; the Madden-Julian-Oscillation/Westerly-Wind-Burst and ENSO interaction; the biological-physical feedback process; and the nonlinear responses of the tropical atmospheric convection to El Ni{\~n}o and La Ni{\~n}a conditions. The skewness of the tropical eastern Pacific SST anomalies and the intensities of the above-mentioned mechanisms have both experienced clear decadal changes in a dynamically associated manner. In particular, there is a dynamic linkage between the decadal changes in the El Ni{\~n}o-La Ni{\~n}a asymmetry and those in NDH. This linkage is based on the recent decadal changes in mean climate states, which provided a favorable condition for thermocline feedback rather than for zonal advection feedback, and thus promoted the eastward propagation of the ENSO-related atmospheric and oceanic fields. The eastward propagating ENSO mode easily produces a positive NDH, resulting in asymmetric ENSO events in which El Ni{\~n}o conditions are stronger than La Ni{\~n}a conditions.",
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A review of interdecadal changes in the nonlinearity of the El Ninño-Southern Oscillation. / An, Soon-Il.

In: Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Vol. 97, No. 1-2, 01.01.2009, p. 29-40.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - Many features of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) display significant interdecadal changes. These include general characteristics such as amplitude, period, and developing features, and also nonlinearities, especially the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry. A review of previous studies on the interdecadal changes in the ENSO nonlinearities is provided. In particular, the methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities, their possible driving mechanisms, and their interdecadal changes are discussed. Two methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities are introduced; the maximum potential intensity, which refers to the upper and lower bounds of the cold tongue temperature, and the skewness, which represents the asymmetry of a probability density function. For example, positive skewness (a strong El Niño vs. a weak La Niña) of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is dominant over the eastern tropical Pacific, with an increase seen during recent decades (e.g., 1980-2000). This positive skewness can be understood as a result of several nonlinear processes. These include the warming effect on both El Niño and La Nĩna by nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH), which intensifies El Niño and suppresses La Niña; the asymmetric negative feedback due to tropical oceanic instability waves, which has a relatively stronger influence on the La Niña event; the nonlinear physics of the ocean mixed layer; the Madden-Julian-Oscillation/Westerly-Wind-Burst and ENSO interaction; the biological-physical feedback process; and the nonlinear responses of the tropical atmospheric convection to El Niño and La Niña conditions. The skewness of the tropical eastern Pacific SST anomalies and the intensities of the above-mentioned mechanisms have both experienced clear decadal changes in a dynamically associated manner. In particular, there is a dynamic linkage between the decadal changes in the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry and those in NDH. This linkage is based on the recent decadal changes in mean climate states, which provided a favorable condition for thermocline feedback rather than for zonal advection feedback, and thus promoted the eastward propagation of the ENSO-related atmospheric and oceanic fields. The eastward propagating ENSO mode easily produces a positive NDH, resulting in asymmetric ENSO events in which El Niño conditions are stronger than La Niña conditions.

AB - Many features of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) display significant interdecadal changes. These include general characteristics such as amplitude, period, and developing features, and also nonlinearities, especially the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry. A review of previous studies on the interdecadal changes in the ENSO nonlinearities is provided. In particular, the methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities, their possible driving mechanisms, and their interdecadal changes are discussed. Two methods for measuring ENSO nonlinearities are introduced; the maximum potential intensity, which refers to the upper and lower bounds of the cold tongue temperature, and the skewness, which represents the asymmetry of a probability density function. For example, positive skewness (a strong El Niño vs. a weak La Niña) of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is dominant over the eastern tropical Pacific, with an increase seen during recent decades (e.g., 1980-2000). This positive skewness can be understood as a result of several nonlinear processes. These include the warming effect on both El Niño and La Nĩna by nonlinear dynamic heating (NDH), which intensifies El Niño and suppresses La Niña; the asymmetric negative feedback due to tropical oceanic instability waves, which has a relatively stronger influence on the La Niña event; the nonlinear physics of the ocean mixed layer; the Madden-Julian-Oscillation/Westerly-Wind-Burst and ENSO interaction; the biological-physical feedback process; and the nonlinear responses of the tropical atmospheric convection to El Niño and La Niña conditions. The skewness of the tropical eastern Pacific SST anomalies and the intensities of the above-mentioned mechanisms have both experienced clear decadal changes in a dynamically associated manner. In particular, there is a dynamic linkage between the decadal changes in the El Niño-La Niña asymmetry and those in NDH. This linkage is based on the recent decadal changes in mean climate states, which provided a favorable condition for thermocline feedback rather than for zonal advection feedback, and thus promoted the eastward propagation of the ENSO-related atmospheric and oceanic fields. The eastward propagating ENSO mode easily produces a positive NDH, resulting in asymmetric ENSO events in which El Niño conditions are stronger than La Niña conditions.

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