Mechanism for asymmetric atmospheric responses in the western North Pacific to El Niño and La Niña

  • Xiaohui Wang
  • Tim LiEmail author
  • Mingcheng Chen


The cause of asymmetric atmospheric circulation responses over the tropical western North Pacific (WNP) to El Niño and La Niña was investigated through observational analyses and idealized modeling experiments. Firstly, column integrated moisture and moist static energy budget analyses were carried out to reveal the cause of asymmetric precipitation anomalies over the WNP. The result indicates that negative nonlinear moist enthalpy advection anomalies occur in both El Niño and La Niña, and they tend to induce a negative precipitation anomaly in the key WNP region and thus an anomalous anticyclone during both El Niño and La Niña winters. This, together with linear moist enthalpy advection, results in an asymmetric atmospheric circulation response. Secondly, the relative roles of the nonlinear moist enthalpy advection and the zonal shift of longitudinal location of anomalous heating over the central-eastern Pacific between El Niño and La Niña were investigated through an anomaly general circulation model. It is found that both the nonlinear advection and the zonally asymmetric heating contribute equally to the observed zonal shift of the anomalous WNP anticyclonic and cyclonic circulation centers between El Niño and La Niña.


Asymmetry El Niño La Niña Moist enthalpy Moist static energy 



This work was supported by NSFC key project 41630423, National Basic Research Program 2015CB453200, NSF Grant AGS-1565653, NOAA Grant NA18OAR4310298, and NSFC Grant 41875069. This is SOEST contribution number 10679, IPRC contribution number 1374, and ESMC contribution number 257.


  1. Adler RF et al (2003) The version-2 global precipitation climatology project (GPCP) monthly precipitation analysis (1979-present). J Hydrometeorol 4:1147–1167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chang CP, Zhang YS, Li T (2000a) Interannual and interdecadal variations of the East Asian summer monsoon and tropical Pacific SSTs. Part I: roles of the subtropical ridge. J Clim 13:4310–4325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chang CP, Zhang YS, Li T (2000b) Interannual and interdecadal variations of the East Asian summer monsoon and tropical Pacific SSTs. Part II: meridional structure of the monsoon. J Clim 13:4326–4340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen MC, Li T, Shen XY, Wu B (2016) Relative roles of dynamic and thermodynamic processes in causing evolution asymmetry between El Niño and La Niña. J Clim 29:2201–2220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dee DP, Uppala SM, Simmons AJ (2011) The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137:553–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gill AE (1980) Some simple solutions for heat-induced tropical circulation. Quart J Roy Meteor Soc 106:447–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. He C, Zhou T, Wu B (2015) The key oceanic regions responsible for the interannual variability of the western North Pacific subtropical high and associated mechanisms. J Meteorol Res 29:562–575. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Held IM, Suarez MJ (1994) A proposal for the intercomparison of the dynamical cores of atmospheric general circulation models. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 75:1825–1830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hoerling M, Kumar A, Zhong M (1997) El Niño, La Niña, and the nonlinearity of their teleconnections. J Clim 10:1769–1786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jiang XA, Li T (2005) Reinitiation of the boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation in the tropical Indian Ocean. J Clim 18:3777–3795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Li T, Hsu PC (2017) Fundamentals of tropical climate dynamics, text book. Springer, Berlin (978-3-319-59595-6) Google Scholar
  12. Li T, Wang B (2005) A review on the western North Pacific monsoon: synoptic-to-inter annual variabilities. Terr Atmos Ocean Sci 16:285–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Li T, Liu P, Fu X, Wang B (2006) Spatiotemporal structures and mechanisms of the tropospheric biennial oscillation in the Indo-Pacific warm ocean regions. J Clim 19:3070–3087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Li T, Wang B, Wu B, Zhou TJ, Chang CP, Zhang RH (2017) Theories on formation of an anomalous anticyclone in western North Pacific during El Niño: a review. J Meteorol Res 31:987–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Neelin JD (2007) Moist dynamics of tropical convection zones in monsoons, teleconnections, and global warming. In: Schnei-der T, Sobel A (eds) The global circulation of the atmosphere. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 267–301Google Scholar
  16. Neelin JD, Held IM (1987) Modeling tropical convergence based on the moist static energy budget. Mon Weather Rev 115:3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB et al (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 108:4407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Su JZ, Zhang RH, Li T et al (2010) Causes of the El Niño and La Niña amplitude asymmetry in the equatorial eastern Pacific. J Clim 23:605–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tao WC, Huang G, Wu RG, Hu KM, Wang PF (2017) Asymmetry in summertime atmospheric circulation anomalies over the northwest Pacific during decaying phase of El Niño and La Niña. Clim Dyn 49:2007–2023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wang B, Wu RG, Fu XH (2000) Pacific-East Asian teleconnection: how does ENSO affect East Asian climate? J Clim 13:1517–1536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang B, Wu RG, Li T (2003) Atmosphere-warm ocean interaction and its impacts on Asian–Australian monsoon variation. J Clim 16:1195–1211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wu B, Li T, Zhou TJ (2010) Asymmetry of atmospheric circulation anomalies over the western North Pacific between El Niño and La Niña. J Clim 23:4807–4822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wu B, Zhou TJ, Li T (2017a) Atmospheric dynamic and thermodynamic processes driving the western North Pacific anomalous anticyclone during El Niño. Part I: Maintenance mechanisms. J Clim 30:9621–9635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wu B, Zhou TJ, Li T (2017b) Atmospheric dynamic and thermodynamic processes driving the western North Pacific anomalous anticyclone during El Niño. Part II: Formation processes. J Clim 30:9637–9650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Xie SP, Kosaka Y, Du Y, Hu K, Chowdary JS, Huang G (2016) Indo-western Pacific ocean capacitor and coherent climate anomalies in post-ENSO summer: a review. Adv Atmos Sci 33:411–432. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zhang RH, Sumi A, Kimoto M (1996) Impact of El Niño on the East Asian monsoon: a diagnostic study of the ’86/87 and ’91/92 events. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 74:49–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zhang RH, Min QY, Su JZ (2017) Impact of El Niño on atmospheric circulations over East Asia and rainfall in China: role of the anomalous western North Pacific anticyclone. Sci China Earth Sci 60:1124–1132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Ministry of Education (KLME), Joint International Research Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Change (ILCEC), Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters (CIC-FEMD)Nanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.International Pacific Research Center, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and TechnologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations