The impact of global warming on the tropical Pacific Ocean and El Nĩo

Mat Collins, Soon Il An, Wenju Cai, Alexandre Ganachaud, Eric Guilyardi, Fei Fei Jin, Markus Jochum, Matthieu Lengaigne, Scott Power, Axel Timmermann, Gabe Vecchi, Andrew Wittenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

875 Citations (Scopus)


The El Nĩo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring fluctuation that originates in the tropical Pacific region and affects ecosystems, agriculture, freshwater supplies, hurricanes and other severe weather events worldwide. Under the influence of global warming, the mean climate of the Pacific region will probably undergo significant changes. The tropical easterly trade winds are expected to weaken; surface ocean temperatures are expected to warm fastest near the equator and more slowly farther away; the equatorial thermocline that marks the transition between the wind-mixed upper ocean and deeper layers is expected to shoal; and the temperature gradients across the thermocline are expected to become steeper. Year-to-year ENSO variability is controlled by a delicate balance of amplifying and damping feedbacks, and one or more of the physical processes that are responsible for determining the characteristics of ENSO will probably be modified by climate change. Therefore, despite considerable progress in our understanding of the impact of climate change on many of the processes that contribute to El Nĩo variability, it is not yet possible to say whether ENSO activity will be enhanced or damped, or if the frequency of events will change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-397
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jun

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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