Does ENSO Regularity Increase in a Warming Climate?
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Does ENSO Regularity Increase in a Warming Climate?

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Climate
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    The impact of a warming climate on El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is investigated in large-ensemble simulations of the Community Earth System Model (CESM1). These simulations are forced by historical emissions for the past and the RCP8.5-scenario emissions for future projections. The simulated variance of the Niño-3.4 ENSO index increases from 1.4°C2 in 1921–80 to 1.9°C2 in 1981–2040 and 2.2°C2 in 2041–2100. The autocorrelation time scale of the index also increases, consistent with a narrowing of its spectral peak in the 3–7-yr ENSO band, raising the possibility of greater seasonal to interannual predictability in the future. Low-order linear inverse models (LIMs) fitted separately to the three 60-yr periods capture the CESM1 increase in ENSO variance and regularity. Remarkably, most of the increase can be attributed to the increase in the 23-month damping time scale of a single damped oscillatory ENSO eigenmode of these LIMs by 5 months in 1981–2040 and 6 months in 2041–2100. These apparently robust projected increases may, however, be compromised by CESM1 biases in ENSO amplitude and damping time scale. An LIM fitted to the 1921–80 observations has an ENSO eigenmode with a much shorter 8-month damping time scale, similar to that of several other eigenmodes. When the mode’s damping time scale is increased by 5 and 6 months in this observational LIM, a much smaller increase of ENSO variance is obtained than in the CESM1 projections. This may be because ENSO is not as dominated by a single ENSO eigenmode in reality as it is in the CESM1.
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    Journal of Climate, 33(4), 1247-1259
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    CC BY
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