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Abrupt intensification of ENSO forced by deglacial ice-sheet retreat in CCSM3

Abstract

The influence of ice-sheet retreat on the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability is studied using a transient simulation in NCAR-CCSM3 forced only by variations in continental ice sheets during the last deglaciation. The most striking feature is an abrupt strengthening of ENSO (by ~25 %) at 14 thousand years before present (ka BP) in response to a significant retreat (an equivalent ~25 m sea-level rise) of the Laurentide ice sheet (LIS). This abrupt intensification of ENSO is caused mainly by a sudden weakening of the equatorial annual cycle through the nonlinear mechanism of frequency entrainment, rather than an increase in the coupled ocean–atmosphere instability. The weakened annual cycle corresponds to a reduced north–south cross-equatorial annual mean SST contrast in the eastern Pacific. This reduced interhemispheric SST gradient—significant cooling north of the equator—is forced predominantly by an anomalous easterly from an abrupt polarward shift of the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere, which extends to the northeastern tropical Pacific Ocean surface and is reinforced by the wind-evaporation-SST feedback then propagates equatorward; it could also be contributed by a fast sea-ice expansion and a consequent cooling in the North Pacific and North Atlantic that is induced by the retreat of the LIS.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the earlier version of this paper. This work is supported by Chinese NSFC41130105 and MOST2012CB955200 and US NSF and DOE. We also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the China Scholarship Council.

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Correspondence to Zhengyao Lu.

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Lu, Z., Liu, Z. & Zhu, J. Abrupt intensification of ENSO forced by deglacial ice-sheet retreat in CCSM3. Clim Dyn 46, 1877–1891 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-015-2681-3

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Keywords

  • ENSO
  • Annual cycle
  • Frequency entrainment
  • Deglacial ice-sheet forcing