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Evolution under global warming of ENSO variability, teleconnection patterns, and related ocean dynamics

PI: William Merryfield
Institution: Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis
The aim of the project would be to quantify changes in ENSO-related variability by comparing two intervals long enough to get reasonable statistics, say 1901-1950 vs 2051-2100. Because the spatial structure of ENSO varies between models, ENSO variability would be quantified by EOF analyses based on low-latitude SST anomalies. Changes between the two intervals would be assessed for ENSO (i) amplitude; (ii) frequency content; (iii) spatial pattern, based on EOF of low-latitude SST and regressions of PCP and PMSL indexed against the principal component time series of this EOF; teleconnections would be quantified by global regression patterns of SST/GT, PCP and PMSL at various lags; (iv) changes in ENSO-related ocean dynamics such as subtropical cell transport of mass and heat towards the equator. Because there is intrinsic multidecadal variability in ENSO that may be difficult to separate from effects of warming, ensembles of warming runs should be considered where possible, and statistical measures of significance applied to the results. As behavior is likely to differ between models, for IPCC purposes the main results will consist of "consensus" assessments of whether the severity and frequency of ENSO variations and the teleconnection patterns are likely to change, and in what manner. Possibly of interest also are differences in the severity of the "worst" El Ninos within the two 50-year intervals, including and not including ENSO-like changes in the mean climate.

Data: monthly timeseries of gridded fields of SST, PCP, PMSL, wind stress, 500mb height; monthly (or annual) 3-D fields of T, S, v for upper tropical Pacific Ocean.

Merryfield and Boer, 2004: Variability of Upper Pacific Ocean Overturning in a coupled climate model, submitted to Journal of Climate.
  • Merryfield, W.J., 2006: Changes to ENSO under CO2 doubling in a multi-model ensemble. J. Climate, 19, 4009-4027, DOI: 10.1175/JCLI3834.1. Abstract. Edit.

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