Two leading but independent modes of Northern Pacific atmospheric circulation: the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO) and the Pacific Meridional Mode (PMM), are known external triggers of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) by the sequential migration of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies into the tropics possibly by means of wind-evaporation-SST (WES) feedbacks. Because of the similar roles of NPO and PMM, most previous studies have explored them with no separation. Here, we investigate their independent and combined effects in triggering ENSO, and find that when the NPO and PMM occur simultaneously during spring, ENSO or ENSO-like SST anomalies are generated during the following winter; whereas when either the NPO or PMM occur alone, ENSO events rarely occur. Furthermore, the relationship between NPO and PMM shows noticeable interdecadal variability, which is related to decadal changes in the mean upper-level jet stream over the North Pacific. Changes in the upper-level jet stream modify the location of the center of the Aleutian Low, which plays a role in bridging the NPO and PMM processes, especially when it migrates to the southwest. The period when NPO and PMM are well correlated coincides somewhat with the active ENSO period, and vice versa, indicating that a more efficient trigger due to combined NPO-PMM processes results in a higher variation of ENSO. Finally, analysis of the coupled model control simulations strongly supports our observational analysis results.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science