Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 737–756 | Cite as

Nonlinearity modulating intensities and spatial structures of central Pacific and eastern Pacific El Niño events

Original Paper


This paper compares data from linearized and nonlinear Zebiak–Cane model, as constrained by observed sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA), in simulating central Pacific (CP) and eastern Pacific (EP) El Ni˜no. The difference between the temperature advections (determined by subtracting those of the linearized model from those of the nonlinear model), referred to here as the nonlinearly induced temperature advection change (NTA), is analyzed. The results demonstrate that the NTA records warming in the central equatorial Pacific during CP El Ni˜no and makes fewer contributions to the structural distinctions of the CP El Ni˜no, whereas it records warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific during EP El Ni˜no, and thus significantly promotes EP El Ni˜no during El Ni˜no–type selection. The NTA for CP and EP El Ni˜no varies in its amplitude, and is smaller in CP El Ni˜no than it is in EP El Ni˜no. These results demonstrate that CP El Ni˜no are weakly modulated by small intensities of NTA, and may be controlled by weak nonlinearity; whereas, EP El Ni˜no are significantly enhanced by large amplitudes of NTA, and are therefore likely to be modulated by relatively strong nonlinearity. These data could explain why CP El Ni˜no are weaker than EP El Ni˜no. Because the NTA for CP and EP El Ni˜no differs in spatial structures and intensities, as well as their roles within different El Ni˜no modes, the diversity of El Ni˜no may be closely related to changes in the nonlinear characteristics of the tropical Pacific.

Key words

El Niño diversity nonlinearity intensity spatial structures nonlinear temperature advection 


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The authors thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers very much for their very insightful comments and suggestions. This work was sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41525017, 41230420 and 41476015).


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Copyright information

© Chinese National Committee for International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Science Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modeling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (LASG), Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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