National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

ENSO-driven interhemispheric Pacific mass transports

McGregor, S., P. Spence, F.U. Schwartzkopf, M.H. England, A. Santoso, W.S. Kessler, A. Timmermann, and C.W. Böning

J. Geophys. Res., 119(9), 6221–6237, doi: 10.1002/2014JC010286 (2014)

Previous studies have shown that ENSO's anomalous equatorial winds, including the observed southward shift of zonal winds that occurs around the event peak, can be reconstructed with the first two Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOFs) of equatorial region wind stresses. Using a high-resolution ocean general circulation model, we investigate the effect of these two EOFs on changes in warm water volume (WWV), interhemispheric mass transports, and Indonesian Throughflow (ITF). Wind stress anomalies associated with the first EOF produce changes in WWV that are dynamically consistent with the conceptual recharge oscillator paradigm. The ITF is found to heavily damp these WWV changes, reducing their variance by half. Wind stress anomalies associated with the second EOF, which depicts the southward wind shift, are responsible for WWV changes that are of comparable magnitude to those driven by the first mode. The southward wind shift is also responsible for the majority of the observed interhemispheric upper ocean mass exchanges. These winds transfer mass between the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere during El Niño events. Whilst water is transferred in the opposite direction during La Niña events, the magnitude of this exchange is roughly half of that seen during El Niño events. Thus, the discharging of WWV during El Niño events is meridionally asymmetric, while the WWV recharging during a La Niña event is largely symmetric. The inclusion of the southward wind shift is also shown to allow ENSO to exchange mass with much higher latitudes than that allowed by the first EOF alone.

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