Possible North Atlantic origin for changes in ENSO properties during the 1970s

Abstract

The most intense El Niño episodes in more than a century occurred after the 1970s climate shift. Previous studies show that the characteristics of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon changed synchronously with the shift, but the associated causes are not fully understood. An analysis of the observed tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies shows that their increase in the eastern part of the basin after the 1970s is not related to the canonical ENSO pattern, but to the tropical Pacific meridional mode (TPMM). We present observational evidence which supports the hypothesis that the change in the TPMM was triggered by the great salinity anomaly (GSA), which manifested in the North Atlantic during the late 1960s. The GSA induced a weak Labrador convection and a SST dipole south of Greenland. The associated atmospheric structure includes a North Pacific Oscillation sea level pressure dipole in the Pacific sector. This excites the TPMM which contributes to the intense El Niño events and to the enhanced ENSO’s asymmetry, observed after the shift. Our results imply that, if the GSA has not an anthropic origin, as was suggested, then the tropical Pacific climate shift has a natural origin. This is supported by the end of the North Atlantic regime in the 1990s and by the rebound of the tropical Pacific after 1998.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

References

  1. Allan R, Ansell T (2006) A new globally complete monthly historical gridded mean sea level pressure dataset (HadSLP2): 1850–2004. J Clim 19:5816–5842

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. An S-I (2004) Interdecadal changes in the El Niño-La Nina asymmetry. Geophys Res Lett 31:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  3. An S-I, Jin FF (2000) An eigen analysis of the interdecadal changes in the structure and frequency of ENSO mode. Geophys Res Lett 27(16):2573–2576

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. An S-I, Zhengqing Y, Hsieh WW (2006) Changes in the leading EMSO modes associated with the late 1970s climate shift: role of surface zonal current. Geophys Res Lett 33:1–5

    Google Scholar 

  5. Baines PG, Folland CK (2007) Evidence for a rapid global climate shift across the late 1960s. J Clim 20:2721–2744

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Broecker WS, Bond GC, Klas M, Clark E, McManus JF (1992) Origin of the northern Atlantic’s Heinrich events. Clim Dyn 6:265–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Burgers G, Stephenson DB (1999) The “normality” of El Nino. Geophys Res Lett 26:1027–1030

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chang P, Zhang L, Saravanan R, Vimont DJ, Chiang JCH, Ji L, Seidel H, Tippett MK (2007) Pacific meridional mode and El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Geophys Res Lett 34:L16608. doi:10.1029/2007GL030302

    Google Scholar 

  9. Chiang JCH, Vimont DJ (2004) Analogous Pacific and Atlantic meridional modes of tropical atmosphere–ocean variability. J Clim 17:4143–4158

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dickson RJ, Meincke J, Malmberg SA, Lee AJ (1988) The “great salinity anomaly” in the northern North Atlantic, 1968–1982. Prog Oceanogr 20:103–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Dickson RJ, Lazier J, Meincke J, Rhines P, Swift J (1996) Long-term coordinated changes in the convective activity of the North Atlantic. Prog Oceanogr 38:241–295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dima M, Lohmann G (2007) A hemispheric mechanism for the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. J Clim 20:2707–2719

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dima M, Rimbu N, Stefan S (2001) Quasi-decadal variability in the Atlantic basin involving tropics–midlatitudes and ocean–atmosphere interactions. J Clim 14:823–832

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Dong B-W, Sutton RT (2002) Adjustment of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system to a sudden change in the thermohaline circulation. Geophys Res Lett 29. doi:10.1029/2002GL015229

  15. Dong B-W, Sutton RT (2007) Enhancement of ENSO variability by a weakened Atlantic thermohaline circulation in a coupled GCM. J Clim 20:4920–4939

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Dong B, Sutton RT, Scaife AA (2006) Multidecadal modulation of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variance by Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature. Geophys Res Lett 33. doi:10.1029/2006GL025766

  17. Fedorov AV, Philander SG (2001) Is El Niño changing? Science 288:1997–2002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Felis T, Merkel U, Asami R, Deschamps P, Hathorne EC, Kolling M, Bard E, Cabioch G, Durand N, Prange M, Schulz M, Cahyarini SY, Pfeiffer M (2012) Pronounced interannual variability in tropical South Pacific temperatures during Heinrich Stadial 1. Nat Commun 3:965. doi:10.1038/mcomms1973

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Ferreira D, Frankignoul C (2005) The transient atmospheric response to midlatitude SST anomalies. J Clim 18:1049–1067

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Furtado JC, Di Lorenzo E, Schneider N, Bond NA (2011) North Pacific decadal variability and climate change in the IPCC AR4 models. J Clim 24:3049–3067

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Häkkinen S (1999) A simulation of thermohaline effects of a great salinity anomaly. J Clim 12:1781–1795

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Harrison DE, Larkin NK (1997) Darwin seal level pressure 1876–1996: evidence for climate change? Geophys Res Lett 24:1779–1782

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Heinrich H (1988) Origin and consequences of cyclic ice rafting in the northeast Atlantic Ocean during the past 130,000 years. Quat Res 29:142–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hemming SR (2004) Heinrich events: massive late Pleistocene detritus layers of the North Atlantic and their global climate imprint. Rev Geophys 42:1–43

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kalnay E et al (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77:437–470

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kaplan A, Cane MA, Kushnir Y, Clement AC, Blumenthal MB, Rajagopolan B (1998) Analyses of global sea surface temperature 1856–1991. J Geophys Res 103:27835–27860

    Google Scholar 

  28. Kirtman BP, Schopf PS (1998) Decadal variability in ENSO predictability and prediction. J Clim 11:2804–2822

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Knight JR, Allan RJ, Folland CK, Vellinga M, Mann ME (2005) A signature of persistent natural thermohaline circulation cycles in observed climate. Geophys Res Lett 32:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  30. Kushnir Y, Robinson WA, Blade I, Hall NM, Peng S, Sutton R (2002) Atmospheric GCM response to extratropical SST anomalies: synthesis and evaluation. J Clim 15:2233–2256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Latif M, Roeckner M, Botzet M, Esch M, Haak H, Hagemann S, Jungclaus J, Legutke S, Marsland S, Mikolajewicz U, Mitchell J (2004) Reconstructing, monitoring, and predicting multidecadal-scale changes in the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation with sea surface temperature. J Clim 17:1605–1614

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Lawrence KT, Zhonghui L, Herbert D (2006) Evolution of the eastern tropical Pacific through Plio-Pleistocene glaciation. Science 312:79–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lazier JRN (1980) Oceanographic conditions at Ocean Weather Ship Bravo, 1964–74. Atmos–Ocean 18:227–238

    Google Scholar 

  34. Lee S-Y, Chiang JCH, Matsumoto K, Tokos KS (2011) Southern Ocean wind response to North Atlantic cooling and the rise in atmospheric CO2: modeling perspective and paleoceanographic implications. Paleoceanography 26:PA1214. doi:10.1029/2010PA002004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Liu H, Herbert TD (2004) High-latitude influence on the eastern equatorial Pacific climate in the early Pleistocene epoch. Nature 427:720–723

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Lorenz EN (1956) Empirical orthogonal functions and statistical weather prediction. Statistical Forecasting Project Scientific Rep. 1, Defense Doc. Center 110268, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

  37. Maraun D, Kurths J (2004) Cross wavelet analysis. Significance testing and pitfalls. Nonlinear Proc Geophys 11:505–514

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McPhaden MJ, Zhang D (2004) Pacific Ocean circulation rebounds. Geophys Res Lett 31. doi:10.1029/2004GL020727

  39. Merkel U, Prange M, Schulz M (2010) ENSO variability and teleconnections during glacial climates Quat. Sci Rev 29:86–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Philander SGH (1990) El Niño, La Nina and the Southern Oscillation. Academic Press, London

    Google Scholar 

  41. Philander SGH, Fedorov A (2003) Is El Niño sporadic or cyclic? Ann Rev Earth Planet Sci 31:579–594

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rodwell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 108:2-1–2-22

    Google Scholar 

  43. Reynolds RW, Rayner NA, Smith TM, Stokes DC, Wang W (2002) An improved in situ and satellite SST analysis for climate. J Clim 15:1609–1625

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Rodbell DT, Seltzer GO, Anderson DM, Abbott MB, Enfield DB, Newman JH (1999) An ~15,000-year record of El Niño-driven alluviation in southwestern Ecuator. Science 283:516–520

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Rodgers KB, Friederichs P, Latif M (2004) Tropical Pacific variability and its relation to decadal modulations of ENSO. J Clim 17:3761–3774

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Rodwell MJ, Rowell DP, Folland CK (1999) Oceanic forcing of the wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation and European climate. Nature 398:320–323

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Seager R, Kushnir Y, Naik NH, Cane MA, Miller J (2001) Wind-driven shifts in the latitude of the Kuroshio–Oyashio extension and generation of SST anomalies on decadal timescales. J Clim 14:4249–4265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Smith TM, Reynolds RW (2004) Improved extended reconstruction of SST (1854–1997). J Clim 17:2466–2477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Stott L, Poulsen C, Lund S, Thunell R (2002) Super ENSO and global climate oscillations at millennial time scales. Science 297:222–226

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Timmermann A, An S-I, Krebs U, Goose H (2005) ENSO suppression due to weakening of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. J Clim 18:3122–3139

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Timmermann A, Okumura Y, An S-I, Clement A, Dong B, Guilyardi E, Hu A, Jungclaus JH, Renold M, Stocker TF, Stouffer RJ, Sutton R, Xie S-P, Yin J (2007) The influence of a weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation on ENSO. J Clim 20:4899–4919

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Torrence C, Compo GP (1998) A practical guide to wavelet analysis. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 79:61–78

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Torrence C, Webster PJ (1999) Interdecadal changes in ENSO–monsoon system. J Clim 12:2679–2690

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Trenberth KE, Hoar TJ (1997) El Niño and climate change. Geophys Res Lett 24:3057–3060

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Trenberth KE, Hurrell JW (1994) Decadal atmosphere–ocean variations in the Pacific. Clim Dyn 9:303–319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Venegas SA, Mysak LA (2000) Is there a dominant time scale of natural climate variability in the Arctic? J Clim 13:3412–3434

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Vimont DJ, Battisti DS (2001) Footprinting: a seasonal connection between the tropics and mid-latitudes. Geophys Res Lett 28:2923–2926

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Visbeck MH, Hurrell JW, Polvani L, Cullen HM (2001) The North Atlantic Oscillation: past, present and future. PNAS 98:12876–12877

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Visbeck M, Chassignet EP, Curry R, Delworth T, Dickson B, Krahmann G (2003) The ocean’s response to North Atlantic Oscillation variability. In: Hurrell JW, Kushnir Y, Ottersen G, Visbeck M (eds) The North Atlantic Oscillation, climatic significance and environmental impact. AGU Geophysical Monograph 134, pp 113–146

  60. von Storch H, Zwiers FW (1999) Statistical analysis in climate research. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  61. Wang B, An SI (2001) Why the properties of El Nino changed during the late 1970s. Geophys Res Lett 28(19):3709–3712

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Wang X, Wang D, Zhou W (2009) Decadal variability of twentieth-century El Niño and La Nina occurrence from observations and IPCC AR4 coupled models. Geophys Res Lett 36:L11701. doi:10.1029/2009GL037929

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Wang X, Wang C, Zhou W, Wang D, Song J (2011) Teleconnected influence of North Atlantic sea surface temperature on the El Niño onset. Clim Dyn 37:663–676

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Wiersma AP, Rensse H, Goose H, Fichefet T (2006) Evaluation of different freshwater forcing scenarios for the 8.2 ka BP event in a coupled climate model. Clim Dyn 27:831–849

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Wu L, Li C, Yang C (2008) Global teleconnections in response to a shutdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. J Clim 21:3002–3019

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Wunsch C (1999) The interpretation of short climate records, with comments on the North Atlantic and Southern Oscillations. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 80:245–255

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Ye Z, Hsieh WW (2006) The influence of climate regime shift on ENSO. Clim Dyn 26:823–833

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Zhang R, Delworth TL (2005) Simulated tropical response to a substantial weakening of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation. J Clim 18:1853–1860

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Zhang R, Vallis GK (2006) Impact of great salinity anomalies on the low-frequency variability of the North Atlantic climate. J Clim 19:470–482

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Zhang Q, Yang H, Zhong Y, Wang D (2005) An idealized study of the impact of extratropical climate change on El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Clim Dyn 25(7–8):869–880

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Mihai Dima was supported by the Humbold foundation and by the Earth System Science Research School—Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Gerrit Lohmann by the Helmholtz foundation through the PACES programme and Norel Rimbu through the KARSTARCHIVE project IDEI31/2010.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mihai Dima.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dima, M., Lohmann, G. & Rimbu, N. Possible North Atlantic origin for changes in ENSO properties during the 1970s. Clim Dyn 44, 925–935 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2173-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • ENSO
  • Great salinity anomaly
  • Climate shift