The Pacific’s Response to Surface Heating in 130 Yr of SST: La Niña–like or El Niño–like?

  • Tung K
  • Zhou J
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Abstract

Abstract Using a modified method of multiple linear regression on instrumented sea surface temperature (SST) in the two longest historical datasets [the Extended Reconstructed SST dataset (ERSST) and the Met Office Hadley Centre Sea Ice and SST dataset (HadISST)], it is found that the response to increased greenhouse forcing is a warm SST in the mid- to eastern Pacific Ocean in the equatorial region in the annual or seasonal mean. The warming is robustly statistically significant at the 95{%} confidence level. Consistent with this, the smaller radiative heating from solar forcing produces a weak warming also in this region, and the spatial pattern of the response is neither La Ni{ñ}a?like nor El Ni{ñ}o?like. It is noted that previous reports of a cold-tongue (La Ni{ñ}a?like) response to increased greenhouse or to solar-cycle heating were likely caused by contaminations due to the dominant mode of natural response in the equatorial Pacific. The present result has implications on whether the Walker circulation is weakened or strengthened in a warmer climate and on coupled atmosphere?ocean climate model validation. Abstract Using a modified method of multiple linear regression on instrumented sea surface temperature (SST) in the two longest historical datasets [the Extended Reconstructed SST dataset (ERSST) and the Met Office Hadley Centre Sea Ice and SST dataset (HadISST)], it is found that the response to increased greenhouse forcing is a warm SST in the mid- to eastern Pacific Ocean in the equatorial region in the annual or seasonal mean. The warming is robustly statistically significant at the 95{%} confidence level. Consistent with this, the smaller radiative heating from solar forcing produces a weak warming also in this region, and the spatial pattern of the response is neither La Ni{ñ}a?like nor El Ni{ñ}o?like. It is noted that previous reports of a cold-tongue (La Ni{ñ}a?like) response to increased greenhouse or to solar-cycle heating were likely caused by contaminations due to the dominant mode of natural response in the equatorial Pacific. The present result has implications on whether the Walker circulation is weakened or strengthened in a warmer climate and on coupled atmosphere?ocean climate model validation.

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Authors

  • Ka-Kit Tung

  • Jiansong Zhou

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