Climatic Change

, Volume 110, Issue 1, pp 315-346

First online:

ENSO anomalies over the Western United States: present and future patterns in regional climate simulations

  • Yongxin ZhangAffiliated withResearch Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research Email author 
  • , Yun QianAffiliated withAtmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • , Valérie DulièreAffiliated withManagement Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models, Department VI, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
  • , Eric P. SalathéJrAffiliated withUniversity of Washington Bothell and Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington
  • , L. Ruby LeungAffiliated withAtmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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Surface temperature, precipitation, specific humidity and wind anomalies associated with the warm and cold phases of ENSO simulated by WRF and HadRM are examined for the present and future decades. WRF is driven by ECHAM5 and CCSM3, respectively, and HadRM is driven by HadCM3. For the current decades, all simulations show some capability in resolving the observed warm-dry and cool-wet teleconnection patterns over the PNW and the Southwest U.S. for warm and cold ENSO. Differences in the regional simulations originate primarily from the respective driving fields. For the future decades, the warm-dry and cool-wet teleconnection patterns in association with ENSO are still represented in ECHAM5-WRF and HadRM. However, there are indications of changes in the ENSO teleconnection patterns for CCSM3-WRF in the future, with wet anomalies dominating in the PNW and the Southwest U.S. for both warm and cold ENSO, in contrast to the canonical patterns of precipitation anomalies. Interaction of anomalous wind flow with local terrain plays a critical role in the generation of anomalous precipitation over the western U.S. Anomalous dry conditions are always associated with anomalous airflow that runs parallel to local mountains and wet conditions with airflow that runs perpendicular to local mountains. Future changes in temperature and precipitation associated with the ENSO events in the regional simulations indicate varying responses depending on the variables examined as well as depending on the phase of ENSO.