Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Eastward shift and extension of ENSO-induced tropical precipitation anomalies under global warming

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Science Advances  08 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 2, eaax4177
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax4177


During El Niño events, increased precipitation occurs over the equatorial central eastern Pacific, corresponding to enhanced convective heating that modulates global climate by exciting atmospheric teleconnections. These precipitation anomalies are projected to shift and extend eastward in response to global warming. We show that this predicted change is caused by narrowing of the meridional span of the underlying El Niño–related sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies that leads to intensification of the meridional gradient of the SST anomalies, strengthening boundary-layer moisture convergence over the equatorial eastern Pacific, and enhancing local positive precipitation anomalies. The eastward shift and extension of these anomalies also intensify and extend eastward negative precipitation anomalies over the tropical western North Pacific, by strengthening equatorward advection of low mean moist enthalpy. Changes in El Niño–induced tropical precipitation anomalies suggest that, under global warming, El Niño events decay faster after their peak phase, thus shortening their duration.

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