Underlying mechanisms leading to El Niño-to-La Niña transition are unchanged under global warming

  • Kyung-Sook Yun
  • Sang-Wook Yeh
  • Kyung-Ja Ha


El Niño’s transitions play critical roles in modulating severe weather and climate events. Therefore, understanding the dynamic factors leading to El Niño’s transitions and its future projection is a great challenge in predicting the diverse socioeconomic influences of El Niño over the globe. This study focuses on two dynamic factors controlling the El Niño-to-La Niña transition from the present climate and to future climate, using the observation, the historical and the RCP8.5 simulations of Coupled Model Intercomparison phase 5 climate models. The first is the inter-basin coupling between the Indian Ocean and the western North Pacific through the subtropical high variability. The second is the enhanced sensitivity between sea surface temperature and a deep tropical convection in the central tropical Pacific during the El Niño’s developing phase. We show that the dynamic factors leading to El Niño-to-La Niña transition in the present climate are unchanged in spite of the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations. We argue that the two dynamic factors are strongly constrained by the climatological precipitation distribution over the central tropical Pacific and western North Pacific as little changed from the present climate to future climate. This implies that two dynamical processes leading to El Niño-to-La Niña transitions in the present climate will also play a robust role in global warming.


El Nino’s transition Dynamic factors Future climate CMIP5 Climatological precipitation 



This study was supported by GRL grant of the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded by the Korean Government (MEST 2011–0021927) and the Institute for Basic Science (Project Code IBS-R028-D1). K. S. Yun was supported by NRF-2015R1C1A1A01054992. S.-W. Yeh was supported by the National Research Fund of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) NRF-2009-C1AAA001-2009-0093042.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Climate PhysicsInstitute for Basic ScienceBusanSouth Korea
  2. 2.Research Center for Climate SciencesPusan National UniversityBusanSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Marine Sciences and Convergent TechnologyHanyang University, EricaAnsanSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of Atmospheric Sciences, College of Natural SciencePusan National UniversityBusanSouth Korea

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