El Niño – Southern Oscillation


The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the leading coupled mode of climate variability on Earth. ENSO episodes are represented by changes in east-west gradient of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical Pacific, which consequently changes patterns of tropical convection and ensuing teleconnections with the extratropical atmosphere. Recent research points to different “flavors” of ENSO – Eastern Pacific vs. Central Pacific or Modoki episodes – which are characterized by the location of the warmest SST anomalies in the tropical Pacific. These differences in the location of the warmest waters have profound influences on teleconnections with the extratropics, which coupled climate models have a difficult time capturing.

Future research avenues include:

  • Understanding the dynamics of the formation and evolution of Central Pacific El Niño events vs. canonical ENSO events.
  • Identifying precursor events to ENSO events, especially when considering South Pacific atmospheric and oceanic variability.
  • Characterizing the different teleconnections associated with Central Pacific El Niño episodes in terms of their impacts on winter weather across North America.
  • Improving model representation of Central Pacific ENSO events and their teleconnections, both in the present and for future climate change.

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© 2023 Jason C. Furtado