National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

Emergence of Central Atlantic Niño

Zhang, L., C. Wang, W. Han, M.J. McPhaden, A. Hu, and W. Xing

Science Adv., 9(43), eadi5507, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adi5507, View open access article at Science (external link) (2023)

The Atlantic Niño is characterized by sea surface warming in the equatorial Atlantic, which can trigger La Niña, the cold phase of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Although observations show that the Atlantic Niño has weakened by approximately 30% since the 1970s, its remote influence on ENSO remains strong. Here, we show that this apparent discrepancy is due to the existence of two types of Atlantic Niño with distinct patterns and climatic impacts, which we refer to as the central and eastern Atlantic Niño. Our results show that with equal strength, the central Atlantic Niño has a stronger influence on tropical climate than its eastern counterpart. Meanwhile, the eastern Atlantic Niño has weakened by approximately 50% in recent decades, allowing the central Atlantic Niño to emerge and dominate the remote impact on ENSO. Given the distinct climatic impacts of the two types, it is necessary to distinguish between them and investigate their behaviors and influences on climate in future studies.

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