National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

Understanding the recent increase in multiyear La Niñas

Wang, B., W. Sun, C. Jin, Y.-M. Yang, T. Li, B. Xiang, M.J. McPhaden, X. Luo, M.A. Cane, F. Jin, F. Liu, and J. Liu

Nature Clim. Change, 13, 1075–1081, doi: 10.1038/s41558-023-01801-6, View open access article at Nature Publishing (external link) (2023)

Five out of six La Niña events since 1998 have lasted two to three years. Why so many long-lasting multiyear La Niña events have emerged recently and whether they will become more common remains unknown. Here we show that ten multiyear La Niña events over the past century had an accelerated trend, with eight of these occurring after 1970. The two types of multiyear La Niña events over this time period followed either a super El Niño or a central Pacific El Niño. We find that multiyear La Niña events differ from single-year La Niñas by a prominent onset rate, which is rooted in the western Pacific warming-enhanced zonal advective feedback for the central Pacific multiyear La Niña events type and thermocline feedback for the super El Niño multiyear La Niña events type. The results from large ensemble climate simulations support the observed multiyear La Niña events–western Pacific warming link. More multiyear La Niña events will exacerbate adverse socioeconomic impacts if the western Pacific continues to warm relative to the central Pacific.

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