Climate Dynamics

, Volume 52, Issue 11, pp 6633–6649 | Cite as

Multidecadal see-saw of the impact of ENSO on Indian and West African summer monsoon rainfall

  • Gaurav SrivastavaEmail author
  • Arindam Chakraborty
  • Ravi S. Nanjundiah


The strength of the simultaneous linear relationship between El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Indian summer monsoon (ISM) precipitation show strong variations on a decadal timescale. While some studies attribute this to shift in the state of the climate and consequent teleconnection pattern, some other argue this as natural variability between two random time series. In this study, we show that the relationship between West African Summer Monsoon (WASM) precipitation with ENSO also experiences decadal timescale oscillation. While the ENSO–ISM relationship weakened during the past seven decades, ENSO–WASM relationship strengthened to above the 95% significance level. We explain this multi-decadal see-saw of strong–weak impact of ENSO on ISM and WASM through a common mechanism. ENSO impacts ISM and WASM rainfall by modulating the upper tropospheric temperature of subtropical Africa and South Asia. While the impact of ENSO on this temperature anomaly was strong and concentrated over the northwest of Indian region before the 1980, the anomalies are spatially discontinuous and weak after 1980. Moreover, a westward shift of the center of this anomaly after 1980 help strengthen the ENSO–WASM relationship. We also show a dramatic change in the relationship between Atlantic Niño and ENSO before and after the 1980s. While before 1980 ENSO did not have much impact on Atlantic Nino index-3 (ATL3), after 1980 El Niño (La Niña) is coincidental with negative (positive) ATL3 index. Since a negative (positive) ATL3 reduce (enhance) WASM by increased south-westerly moisture flux, the ENSO–WASM relationship strengthens after 1980. Our study suggests that the decadal variations of ENSO–ISM and ENSO–WASM relationship is physically linked and possibly could not be due to pure noise in the time series.


El Niño/Southern oscillation Indian summer monsoon West African summer monsoon Decadal variability 



GS acknowledges the financial support from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for this research. Department of Science and technology acknowledged by AC for their financial support. RSN acknowledges support from INCOIS (Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services) under HOOFS (High-resolution Operational Ocean Forecast and reanalysis System) programme for this research. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments.

Supplementary material

382_2018_4535_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1718 KB)


  1. Azad S, Rajeevan M (2016) Possible shift in the ENSO-Indian monsoon rainfall relationship under future global warming. Sci Rep 6:20145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chakraborty A (2018) Preceding winter La Niña reduces Indian summer monsoon rainfall. Environ Res Lett 13(5):054,030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chakraborty A, Agrawal S (2017) Role of west Asian surface pressure in summer monsoon onset over central India. Environ Res Lett 12(7):074,002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cook KH, Vizy EK (2006) Coupled model simulations of the West African monsoon system: twentieth-and twenty-first-century simulations. J Clim 19(15):3681–3703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Enfield DB, Mayer DA (1997) Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature variability and its relation to El Niño–Southern Oscillation. J Geophys Res Oceans 102(C1):929–945CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fontaine B, Garcia-Serrano J, Roucou P, Rodriguez-Fonseca B, Losada T, Chauvin F, Gervois S, Sijikumar S, Ruti P, Janicot S (2010) Impacts of warm and cold situations in the Mediterranean basins on the West African monsoon: observed connection patterns (1979–2006) and climate simulations. Clim Dyn 35(1):95–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gadgil S, Gadgil S (2006) The Indian monsoon, GDP and agriculture. Econ Polit Wkly 25:4887–4895Google Scholar
  8. Gaetani M, Fontaine B (2013) Interaction between the West African Monsoon and the summer Mediterranean climate: an overview/Interacción entre el Monzón de África Occidental y el clima Mediterráneo en verano: Artículo de revisión. Física de la Tierra 25:41Google Scholar
  9. García-Serrano J, Cassou C, Douville H, Giannini A, Doblas-Reyes FJ (2017) Revisiting the ENSO teleconnection to the tropical North Atlantic. J Clim 30(17):6945–6957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gershunov A, Schneider N, Barnett T (2001) Low-Frequency Modulation of the ENSO–Indian Monsoon Rainfall Relationship: signal or Noise? J Clim 14(11):2486–2492.<2486:LFMOTE>2.0.CO;2
  11. Giannini A, Saravanan R, Chang P (2003) Oceanic forcing of Sahel rainfall on interannual to interdecadal time scales. Science 302(5647):1027–1030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goswami BN, Xavier PK (2005) ENSO control on the south Asian monsoon through the length of the rainy season. Geophys Res Lett 32(18):l18717. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hameed S, Riemer N (2012) Relationship of Sahel precipitation and atmospheric centers of action. Adv Meteorol 2012:2012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harris I, Jones P, Osborn T, Lister D (2014) Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations—the CRU TS3. 10 Dataset. Int J Climatol 34(3):623–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Janicot S (1992) Spatiotemporal variability of West African rainfall. Part II: associated surface and airmass characteristics. J Clim 5(5):499–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Janicot S, Moron V, Fontaine B (1996) Sahel droughts and ENSO dynamics. Geophys Res Lett 23(5):515–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Janicot S, Trzaska S, Poccard I (2001) Summer Sahel-ENSO teleconnection and decadal time scale SST variations. Clim Dyn 18(3–4):303–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jiang X, Li T, Wang B (2004) Structures and mechanisms of the northward propagating boreal summer intraseasonal oscillation. J Clim 17(5):1022–1039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Joly M, Voldoire A (2009) Influence of ENSO on the West African monsoon: temporal aspects and atmospheric processes. J Clim 22(12):3193–3210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Joly M, Voldoire A (2010) Role of the Gulf of Guinea in the inter-annual variability of the West African monsoon: what do we learn from CMIP3 coupled simulations? Int J Climatol 30(12):1843–1856Google Scholar
  21. Kalnay E, Kanamitsu M, Kistler R, Collins W, Deaven D, Gandin L, Iredell M, Saha S, White G, Woollen J, Zhu Y, Leetmaa A, Reynolds R, Chelliah M, Ebisuzaki W, Higgins W, Janowiak J, Mo KC, Ropelewski C, Wang J, Jenne R, Joseph D (1996) The ncep/ncar 40-year reanalysis project. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 77(3):437–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kosaka Y, Xie SP (2013) Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling. Nature 501(7467):403–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krishnamurthy V, Goswami B (2000) Indian monsoon-ENSO relationship on interdecadal timescale. J Clim 13(3):579–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kucharski F, Bracco A, Yoo J, Molteni F (2007) Low-frequency variability of the Indian monsoon-ENSO relationship and the tropical Atlantic: the weakening of the 1980s and 1990s. J Clim 20(16):4255–4266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kumar KK, Rajagopalan B, Cane MA (1999) On the Weakening Relationship Between the Indian Monsoon and ENSO. Science 284(5423):2156–2159. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kumar KK, Rajagopalan B, Hoerling M, Bates G, Cane M (2006) Unraveling the mystery of Indian Monsoon failure during El Niño. Science 314(5796):115–119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lamb PJ (1978a) Case studies of tropical Atlantic surface circulation patterns during recent sub-Saharan weather anomalies: 1967 and 1968. Mon Weather Rev 106(4):482–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lamb PJ (1978b) Large-scale Tropical Atlantic surface circulation patterns associated with Subsaharan weather anomalies. Tellus 30(3):240–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Losada T, Rodríguez-Fonseca B, Janicot S, Gervois S, Chauvin F, Ruti P (2010) A multi-model approach to the Atlantic Equatorial mode: impact on the West African monsoon. Clim Dyn 35(1):29–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Losada T, Rodriguez-Fonseca B, Mohino E, Bader J, Janicot S, Mechoso C (2012) Tropical SST and Sahel rainfall: a non-stationary relationship. Geophys Res Lett 39(12):L12705. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mertz O, Mbow C, Reenberg A, Diouf A (2009) Farmers perceptions of climate change and agricultural adaptation strategies in rural Sahel. Environ Manag 43(5):804–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mohino E, Rodríguez-Fonseca B, Losada T, Gervois S, Janicot S, Bader J, Ruti P, Chauvin F (2011a) Changes in the interannual SST-forced signals on West African rainfall. AGCM intercomparison. Clim Dyn 37(9–10):1707–1725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mohino E, Rodríguez-Fonseca B, Mechoso CR, Gervois S, Ruti P, Chauvin F (2011b) Impacts of the tropical Pacific/Indian Oceans on the seasonal cycle of the West African monsoon. J Clim 24(15):3878–3891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Münnich M, Neelin JD (2005) Seasonal influence of ENSO on the Atlantic ITCZ and equatorial South America. Geophys Res Lett 32(21):L21709. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Polo I, Rodríguez-Fonseca B, Losada T, García-Serrano J (2008) Tropical Atlantic variability modes (1979–2002). Part I: Time-evolving SST modes related to West African rainfall. J Clim 21(24):6457–6475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rajeevan M, Bhate J, Kale J, Lal B (2006) High resolution daily gridded rainfall data for the Indian region: analysis of break and active monsoon spells. Curr Sci 91(3):296–306Google Scholar
  37. Rasmusson EM, Carpenter TH (1982) Variations in tropical sea surface temperature and surface wind fields associated with the Southern Oscillation/El Niño. Mon Weather Rev 110(5):354–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rowell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res Atmos 108(D14):4407. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rodríguez-Fonseca B, Janicot S, Mohino E, Losada T, Bader J, Caminade C, Chauvin F, Fontaine B, García-Serrano J, Gervois S (2011) Interannual and decadal SST-forced responses of the West African monsoon. Atmos Sci Lett 12(1):67–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ropelewski CF, Halpert MS (1987) Global and regional scale precipitation patterns associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Mon Weather Rev 115(8):1606–1626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rowell DP (2001) Teleconnections between the tropical Pacific and the Sahel. Q J R Meteorol Soc 127(575):1683–1706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rowell DP, Folland CK, Maskell K, Ward MN (1995) Variability of summer rainfall over tropical North Africa (1906–92): Observations and modelling. Q J R Meteorol Soc 121(523):669–704Google Scholar
  43. Saravanan R, Chang P (2000) Interaction between tropical Atlantic variability and El Niño–Southern oscillation. J Clim 13(13):2177–2194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Seager R, Harnik N, Kushnir Y, Robinson W, Miller J (2003) Mechanisms of hemispherically symmetric climate variability. J Clim 16(18):2960–2978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Servain J (1991) Simple climatic indices for the tropical Atlantic Ocean and some applications. J Geophys Res Oceans 96(C8):15,137–15,146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shaman J, Tziperman E (2007) Summertime ENSO-North African-Asian Jet teleconnection and implications for the Indian monsoons. Geophys Res Lett 34(11):l11702. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sikka D (1980) Some aspects of the large scale fluctuations of summer monsoon rainfall over India in relation to fluctuations in the planetary and regional scale circulation parameters. Proc Indian Acad Sci Earth Planet Sci 89(2):179–195Google Scholar
  48. Sun DZ (2000) The heat sources and sinks of the 1986–87 El Niño. J Clim 13(20):3533–3550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Surez-Moreno R, Rodrguez-Fonseca B, Barroso JA, Fink AH (2018) Interdecadal changes in the leading ocean forcing of Sahelian rainfall interannual variability: atmospheric dynamics and role of multidecadal SST background. J Clim 31(17):6687–6710. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Torrence C, Webster PJ (1999) Interdecadal changes in the ENSO-monsoon system. J Clim 12(8):2679–2690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Trenberth KE (1990) Recent observed interdecadal climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 71(7):988–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Trenberth KE, Hurrell JW (1994) Decadal atmosphere-ocean variations in the Pacific. Clim Dyn 9(6):303–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van Oldenborgh GJ, Burgers G (2005) Searching for decadal variations in ENSO precipitation teleconnections. Geophys Res Lett 32(15):l15701. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vizy EK, Cook KH (2001) Mechanisms by which Gulf of Guinea and eastern North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies can influence African rainfall. J Clim 14(5):795–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Walker GT (1925) Correlation in seasonal variations of WEATHER-A further study of world WEATHER 1. Mon Weather Rev 53(6):252–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ward MN (1992) Provisionally Corrected surface wind data, worldwide ocean–atmosphere surface fields, and Sahellan rainfall variability. J Clim 5(5):454–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ward MN (1998) Diagnosis and short-lead time prediction of summer rainfall in tropical North Africa at interannual and multidecadal timescales. J Clim 11(12):3167–3191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Watanabe T, Yamazaki K (2014) Decadal-scale variation of South Asian summer monsoon onset and its relationship with the Pacific decadal oscillation. J Clim 27(13):5163–5173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Webster PJ, Magana VO, Palmer T, Shukla J, Tomas R, Yanai M, Yasunari T (1998) Monsoons: processes, predictability, and the prospects for prediction. J Geophys Res Oceans 103(C7):14451–14510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Webster PJ, Moore AM, Loschnigg JP, Leben RR (1999) Coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics in the Indian Ocean during 1997–98. Nature 401(6751):356–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wolter K (1989) Modes of tropical circulation, Southern Oscillation, and Sahel rainfall anomalies. J Clim 2(2):149–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yu L, Rienecker MM (1999) Mechanisms for the Indian Ocean warming during the 1997–98 El Niño. Geophys Res Lett 26(6):735–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zebiak SE (1993) Air-sea interaction in the equatorial Atlantic region. J Clim 6(8):1567–1586CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Indian Institute of Tropical MeteorologyPuneIndia

Personalised recommendations