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Relative roles of El Niño-induced extratropical and tropical forcing in generating Tropical North Atlantic (TNA) SST anomaly


During El Niño decaying spring, Tropical North Atlantic (TNA) region displays a significant warm SST anomaly (SSTA). The relative role of El Niño-induced extratropical and tropical forcing in generating TNA SSTA is investigated through both an observational analysis and idealized numerical model simulation. The maximum warming tendency in TNA occurred in El Niño mature winter and was mainly caused by enhanced surface evaporation, which was primarily affected by reduced trade wind. A partial regression analysis was employed to reveal the relative roles of El Niño induced extratropical forcing through Pacific North American pattern (PNA) and tropical forcing via remote Gill response. It is found that the extratropical forcing contributes around 62–66% in inducing a southwesterly anomaly over TNA region while the tropical forcing contributes approximately 34–38%. Idealized numerical model (ECHAM4) experiments were further carried out. This model could successfully reproduce PNA pattern and tropical Gill response by adding an El Niño forcing. Then two sensitivity experiments were designed to assess the relative contribution of the extratropical and tropical forcing. (1) An experiment was designed in which a zone (15°–26°N, 90°E–85°W) was given a strong Newtonian-type damping to prevent the Rossby wave propagating to the mid-latitudes, which greatly suppresses PNA induced mid-latitude forcing effect. (2) Tropical forcing is attempted to be suppressed in the model by adding a positive diabatic heating rate anomaly over the tropical Atlantic region where the El Niño forcing tends to induce negative heating anomaly. The numerical model results show that the southwesterly anomaly over TNA region is attributed to extratropical forcing and tropical forcing with 58–68% and 32–42% contribution respectively, which is consistent with the observational partial regression analysis.

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This work was supported by NSFC Grant 41630423, National Key R&D Project 2015CB453200 and 2017YFA0603802, NSF Grant AGS-1565653, NOAA Award NA18OAR4310298, and NSFC Grant 41875069/41575043. This is SOEST contribution number 10674, IPRC contribution number 1372, and ESMC contribution 256. Dr. Xinyao Rong is acknowledged for the suggestions on conducting ECHAM4 experiments.

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Correspondence to Tim Li.

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Jiang, L., Li, T. Relative roles of El Niño-induced extratropical and tropical forcing in generating Tropical North Atlantic (TNA) SST anomaly. Clim Dyn 53, 3791–3804 (2019).

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  • El Niño
  • Tropical North Atlantic SSTA
  • Extratropical forcing
  • Tropical forcing
  • Relative contribution