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Salinity anomaly as a trigger for ENSO events
Zhu, J.; Huang, B.; Zhang, R.-H.; Hu, Z.-Z.; Kumar, A.; Balmaseda, M.A.; Marx, L.; Kinter III, J.L. (2014). Salinity anomaly as a trigger for ENSO events. NPG Scientific Reports 4( 6821): 5 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Zhu, J.
  • Huang, B.
  • Zhang, R.-H.
  • Hu, Z.-Z.
  • Kumar, A.
  • Balmaseda, M.A.
  • Marx, L.
  • Kinter III, J.L.

    According to the classical theories of ENSO, subsurface anomalies in ocean thermal structure are precursors for ENSO events and their initial specification is essential for skillful ENSO forecast. Although ocean salinity in the tropical Pacific (particularly in the western Pacific warm pool) can vary in response to El Niño events, its effect on ENSO evolution and forecasts of ENSO has been less explored. Here we present evidence that, in addition to the passive response, salinity variability may also play an active role in ENSO evolution, and thus important in forecasting El Niño events. By comparing two forecast experiments in which the interannually variability of salinity in the ocean initial states is either included or excluded, the salinity variability is shown to be essential to correctly forecast the 2007/08 La Niña starting from April 2007. With realistic salinity initial states, the tendency to decay of the subsurface cold condition during the spring and early summer 2007 was interrupted by positive salinity anomalies in the upper central Pacific, which working together with the Bjerknes positive feedback, contributed to the development of the La Niña event. Our study suggests that ENSO forecasts will benefit from more accurate salinity observations with large-scale spatial coverage.

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