The Role of Reversed Equatorial Zonal Transport in Terminating an ENSO Event
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The Role of Reversed Equatorial Zonal Transport in Terminating an ENSO Event

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Climate
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  • Description:
    This study shows the sudden basinwide reversal of anomalous equatorial zonal transport above the thermocline at the peaking phase of ENSO triggers rapid termination of ENSO events. The anomalous equatorial zonal transport is controlled by the concavity of anomalous thermocline meridional structure across the equator. During the developing phase of ENSO, opposite zonal transport anomalies form in the westerncentral and central-eastern equatorial Pacific, respectively. Both are driven by the equatorial thermocline anomalies in response to zonal wind anomalies over the western-central equatorial ocean. At this stage, the anomalous zonal transport in the east enhances ENSO growth through zonal SST advection. In the mature phase of ENSO, off-equatorial thermocline depth anomalies become more dominant in the eastern Pacific because of the reflection of equatorial signals at the eastern boundary. As a result, the meridional concavity of the thermocline anomalies is reversed in the east. This change reverses zonal transport rapidly in the central-to-eastern equatorial Pacific, joining with the existing reversed zonal transport anomalies farther to the west, and forms a basinwide transport reversal throughout the equatorial Pacific. This basinwide transport reversal weakens the ENSO SST anomalies by reversed advection. More importantly, the reversed zonal transport reduces the existing zonal tilting of the equatorial thermocline and weakens its feedback to wind anomalies effectively. This basinwide reversal is built in at the peak phase of ENSO as an oceanic control on the evolution of both El Nino and La Nina events. The reversed zonal transport anomaly after the mature phase weakens El Nino in the eastern Pacific more efficiently than it weakens La Nina.
  • Source:
    Journal of Climate, 29(16), 5859-5877.
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