Roles of tropical SST patterns during two types of ENSO in modulating wintertime rainfall over southern China

  • Kang Xu
  • Qing-Lan Huang
  • Chi-Yung Tam
  • Weiqiang Wang
  • Sheng Chen
  • Congwen Zhu


The impacts of the eastern-Pacific (EP) and central-Pacific (CP) El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the southern China wintertime rainfall (SCWR) have been investigated. Results show that wintertime rainfall over most stations in southern China is enhanced (suppressed) during the EP (CP) El Niño, which are attributed to different atmospheric responses in the western North Pacific (WNP) and South China Sea (SCS) during two types of ENSO. When EP El Niño occurs, an anomalous low-level anticyclone is present over WNP/the Philippines region, resulting in stronger-than-normal southwesterlies over SCS. Such a wind branch acts to suppress East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) and enhance moisture supply, implying surplus SCWR. During CP El Niño, however, anomalous sinking and low-level anticyclonic flow are found to cover a broad region in SCS. These circulation features are associated with moisture divergence over the northern part of SCS and suppressed SCWR. General circulation model experiments have also been conducted to study influence of various tropical sea surface temperature (SST) patterns on the EAWM atmospheric circulation. For EP El Niño, formation of anomalous low-level WNP anticyclone is jointly attributed to positive/negative SST anomalies (SSTA) over the central-to-eastern/ western equatorial Pacific. However, both positive and negative CP Niño-related-SSTA, located respectively over the central Pacific and WNP/SCS, offset each other and contribute a weak but broad-scale anticyclone centered at SCS. These results suggest that, besides the vital role of SST warming, SST cooling over SCS/WNP during two types of El Niño should be considered carefully for understanding the El Niño-EAWM relationship.


Eastern-Pacific El Niño Central-Pacific El Niño Southern China wintertime rainfall Anomalous anticyclone East Asian winter monsoon 



This study was jointly supported by the Funds for Creative Research Groups of China (41521005), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41776023, 41406033, 41475057, and 41676013), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC1401401), the Chinese University Direct Grant (4053208), the Science and Technology Research Project of Guangdong Meteorological Service (2016B47), and the Independent Research Project Program of State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography (LTOZZ1702).


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Earth System Science ProgrammeThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  3. 3.Jiangmen Meteorological ServiceJiangmenChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather (LASW) and Institute of Climate SystemChinese Academy of Meteorological SciencesBeijingChina

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