The leading mode of observed and CMIP5 ENSO-residual sea surface temperatures and associated changes in indo-pacific climate

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SSTs in the western Pacific Ocean have tracked closely with CMIP5 simulations despite recent hiatus cooling in the eastern Pacific. This paper quantifies these similarities and associated circulation and precipitation variations using the first global 1900-2012 ENSO-residual empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of 35 variables: Observed SSTs; 28 CMIP5 SST simulations; Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA) 25-, 70-, and 171-m ocean temperatures and sea surface heights (SSHs); and Twentieth Century Reanalysis, version 2 (20CRv2), surface winds and precipitation. While estimated independently, these leading EOFs across all variables fit together in a meaningful way, and the authors refer to them jointly as the west Pacific warming mode (WPWM). WPWM SST EOFs correspond closely in space and time. Their spatial patterns form a "western V" extending from the Maritime Continent into the extratropical Pacific. Their temporal principal components (PCs) have increased rapidly since 1990; this increase has been primarily due to radiative forcing and not natural decadal variability. WPWM circulation changes appear consistent with a Matsuno-Gill-like atmospheric response associated with an ocean-atmosphere dipole structure contrasting increased (decreased) western (eastern) Pacific precipitation, SSHs, and ocean temperatures. These changes have enhanced the Walker circulation and modulated weather on a global scale. An AGCM experiment and the WPWM of global boreal spring precipitation indicate significant drying across parts of East Africa, the Middle East, the southwestern United States, southern South America, and Asia. Changes in the WPWM have tracked closely with precipitation and the increase in drought frequency over the semiarid and water-insecure areas of East Africa, the Middle East, and southwest Asia.




Funk, C. C., & Hoell, A. (2015). The leading mode of observed and CMIP5 ENSO-residual sea surface temperatures and associated changes in indo-pacific climate. Journal of Climate, 28(11), 4309–4329.

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