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Alexander, MA, Seo H, Xie SP, Scott JD.  2012.  ENSO's Impact on the Gap Wind Regions of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. Journal of Climate. 25:3549-3565.   10.1175/jcli-d-11-00320.1   Abstract

The recently released NCEP Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) is used to examine the response to ENSO in the northeast tropical Pacific Ocean (NETP) during 1979-2009. The normally cool Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) associated with wind jets through the gaps in the Central American mountains at Tehuantepec, Papagayo, and Panama are substantially warmer (colder) than the surrounding ocean during El Nino (La Nina) events. Ocean dynamics generate the ENSO-related SST anomalies in the gap wind regions as the surface fluxes damp the SSTs anomalies, while the Ekman heat transport is generally in quadrature with the anomalies. The ENSO-driven warming is associated with large-scale deepening of the thermocline; with the cold thermocline water at greater depths during El Nino in the NETP, it is less likely to be vertically mixed to the surface, particularly in the gap wind regions where the thermocline is normally very close to the surface. The thermocline deepening is enhanced to the south of the Costa Rica Dome in the Papagayo region, which contributes to the local ENSO-driven SST anomalies. The NETP thermocline changes are due to coastal Kelvin waves that initiate westward-propagating Rossby waves, and possibly ocean eddies, rather than by local Ekman pumping. These findings were confirmed with regional ocean model experiments: only integrations that included interannually varying ocean boundary conditions were able to simulate the thermocline deepening and localized warming in the NETP during El Nino events; the simulation with variable surface fluxes, but boundary conditions that repeated the seasonal cycle, did not.

Amaya, DJ, Kosaka Y, Zhou W, Zhang Y, Xie S-P, Miller AJ.  2019.  The North Pacific pacemaker effect on historical ENSO and its mechanisms. Journal of Climate.   10.1175/jcli-d-19-0040.1   Abstract

Studies have indicated that North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability can significantly modulate the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), but there has been little effort to put extratropical-tropical interactions into the context of historical events. To quantify the role of the North Pacific in pacing the timing and magnitude of observed ENSO, we use a fully-coupled climate model to produce an ensemble of North Pacific Ocean-Global Atmosphere (nPOGA) SST pacemaker simulations. In nPOGA, SST anomalies are restored back to observations in the North Pacific (>15°N), but are free to evolve throughout the rest of the globe. We find that the North Pacific SST has significantly influenced observed ENSO variability, accounting for approximately 15% of the total variance in boreal fall and winter. The connection between the North and tropical Pacific arises from two physical pathways: 1. A Wind-Evaporation-SST (WES) propagating mechanism, and 2. A Gill-like atmospheric response associated with anomalous deep convection in boreal summer and fall, which we refer to as the Summer Deep Convection (SDC) response. The SDC response accounts for 25% of the observed zonal wind variability around the equatorial dateline. On an event-by-event basis, nPOGA most closely reproduces the 2014-2015 and the 2015-2016 El Niños. In particular, we show that the 2015 Pacific Meridional Mode event increased wind forcing along the equator by 20%, potentially contributing to the extreme nature of the 2015-2016 El Niño. Our results illustrate the significant role of extratropical noise in pacing the initiation and magnitude of ENSO events and may improve the predictability of ENSO on seasonal timescales.

Amaya, DJ, Xie SP, Miller AJ, McPhaden MJ.  2015.  Seasonality of tropical Pacific decadal trends associated with the 21st century global warming hiatus. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:6782-6798.   10.1002/2015jc010906   AbstractWebsite

Equatorial Pacific changes during the transition from a nonhiatus period (pre-1999) to the present global warming hiatus period (post-1999) are identified using a combination of reanalysis and observed data sets. Results show increased surface wind forcing has excited significant changes in wind-driven circulation. Over the last two decades, the core of the Equatorial Undercurrent intensified at a rate of 6.9 cm s(-1) decade(-1). Similarly, equatorial upwelling associated with the shallow meridional overturning circulation increased at a rate of 2.0 x 10(-4) cm s(-1) decade(-1) in the central Pacific. Further, a seasonal dependence is identified in the sea surface temperature trends and in subsurface dynamics. Seasonal variations are evident in reversals of equatorial surface flow trends, changes in subsurface circulation, and seasonal deepening/shoaling of the thermocline. Anomalous westward surface flow drives cold-water zonal advection from November to February, leading to surface cooling from December through May. Conversely, eastward surface current anomalies in June-July drive warm-water zonal advection producing surface warming from July to November. An improved dynamical understanding of how the tropical Pacific Ocean responds during transitions into hiatus events, including its seasonal structure, may help to improve future predictability of decadal climate variations.

Amaya, DJ, Siler N, Xie SP, Miller AJ.  2018.  The interplay of internal and forced modes of Hadley Cell expansion: lessons from the global warming hiatus. Climate Dynamics. 51:305-319.   10.1007/s00382-017-3921-5   AbstractWebsite

The poleward branches of the Hadley Cells and the edge of the tropics show a robust poleward shift during the satellite era, leading to concerns over the possible encroachment of the globe's subtropical dry zones into currently temperate climates. The extent to which this trend is caused by anthropogenic forcing versus internal variability remains the subject of considerable debate. In this study, we use a Joint EOF method to identify two distinct modes of tropical width variability: (1) an anthropogenically-forced mode, which we identify using a 20-member simulation of the historical climate, and (2) an internal mode, which we identify using a 1000-year pre-industrial control simulation. The forced mode is found to be closely related to the top of the atmosphere radiative imbalance and exhibits a long-term trend since 1860, while the internal mode is essentially indistinguishable from the El Nio Southern Oscillation. Together these two modes explain an average of 70% of the interannual variability seen in model "edge indices" over the historical period. Since 1980, the superposition of forced and internal modes has resulted in a period of accelerated Hadley Cell expansion and decelerated global warming (i.e., the "hiatus"). A comparison of the change in these modes since 1980 indicates that by 2013 the signal has emerged above the noise of internal variability in the Southern Hemisphere, but not in the Northern Hemisphere, with the latter also exhibiting strong zonal asymmetry, particularly in the North Atlantic. Our results highlight the important interplay of internal and forced modes of tropical width change and improve our understanding of the interannual variability and long-term trend seen in observations.

Annamalai, H, Murtugudde R, Potemra J, Xie SP, Liu P, Wang B.  2003.  Coupled dynamics over the Indian Ocean: spring initiation of the Zonal Mode. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 50:2305-2330.   10.1016/s0967-0645(03)00058-4   Abstract
Annamalai, H, Xie SP, McCreary JP, Murtugudde R.  2005.  Impact of Indian Ocean sea surface temperature on developing El Nino. Journal of Climate. 18:302-319. Abstract
Annamalai, H, Liu P, Xie SP.  2005.  Southwest Indian Ocean SST variability: Its local effect and remote influence on Asian monsoons. Journal of Climate. 18:4150-4167. Abstract