An interdecadal change in the influence of the Central Pacific ENSO on the subsequent north tropical Atlantic spring SST variability around the mid-1980s

  • Xiaoxue Yin
  • Lian-Tong ZhouEmail author


North tropical Atlantic (NTA) spring sea surface temperature (SST) tends to be warmer (cooler) than normal in Central Pacific (CP) El Niño decaying years during 1960s to mid-1980s. However, the relationship between the NTA spring SST and CP El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is weakened after mid-1980s. This study presents this interdecadal change and investigates possible causes. Before the mid-1980s, above-normal NTA SST peaks in post-El Niño spring. The CP El Niño can affect NTA spring SST by inducing a negative phase of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) anomaly over North Atlantic from winter to spring. This negative NAO circulation weakens the Azores High and causes weaker than normal trade wind. As a result, less heat loses from the NTA Ocean and above-normal SST anomalies generated. In contrast, after the middle 1980s, the connection between CP ENSO and NAO-like anomaly has been disrupted. This leads to a weakening of CP ENSO influences on the NTA spring SST. The observed change in the relationship between NTA spring SST and CP ENSO is likely related to the state of the polar vortex. Before the middle 1980s, the polar vortex is weak, this favors the propagation of ENSO-related wave flux. The Rossby wave trains spread to the stratosphere during El Niño conditions and cause weaker than normal polar vortex, resulting in a negative NAO in the low levels. And the subtropical jet is enhanced and elongated which provides a potential waveguide for wave activity propagating to the Atlantic through a tropospheric way. However, the polar vortex is strong after mid-1980s, preventing the propagation of the ENSO-related wave trains through the stratosphere or the troposphere.


North tropical Atlantic SST CP ENSO Interdecadal change NAO Polar vortex 



This paper was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant no. 2016YFA0600603), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41475053).


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Monsoon System Research, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Earth and Planetary SciencesUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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