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Continued increase of extreme El Niño frequency long after 1.5 °C warming stabilization
Wang, G.; Cai, W.; Gan, B.; Wu, L.; Santoso, A.; Lin, X.; Chen, Z.; McPhaden, M.J. (2017). Continued increase of extreme El Niño frequency long after 1.5 °C warming stabilization. Nat. Clim. Chang. 7(8): 568-572. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1038/nclimate3351
In: Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1758-678X; e-ISSN 1758-6798, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Wang, G.
  • Cai, W.
  • Gan, B.
  • Wu, L.
  • Santoso, A.
  • Lin, X.
  • Chen, Z.
  • McPhaden, M.J.

Abstract
    The Paris Agreement aims to constrain global mean temperature (GMT) increases to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational target of 1.5 °C. However, the pathway to these targets1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the impacts of a 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming on extreme El Niño and La Niña events—which severely influence weather patterns, agriculture, ecosystems, public health and economies7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16—is little known. Here, by analysing climate models participating in the Climate Model Intercomparison Project’s Phase 5 (CMIP5; ref. 17) under a most likely emission scenario1, 2, we demonstrate that extreme El Niño frequency increases linearly with the GMT towards a doubling at 1.5 °C warming. This increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events continues for up to a century after GMT has stabilized, underpinned by an oceanic thermocline deepening that sustains faster warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific than the off-equatorial region. Ultimately, this implies a higher risk of extreme El Niño to future generations after GMT rise has halted. On the other hand, whereas previous research suggests extreme La Niña events may double in frequency under the 4.5 °C warming scenario8, the results presented here indicate little to no change under 1.5 °C or 2 °C warming

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