Title

El Nino Southern Oscillation-Related Ocean-Atmosphere Coupling in the Western Equatorial Pacific

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-15-1998

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

dx.doi.org/10.1029/98JC01464

Abstract

Using 43 years of Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data: Set and related data for the period 1950-1992, an examination is made into the regional dependence of ocean-atmosphere coupling in relation to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The cross correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies over the global tropics shows two patterns of significant negative correlation consistent with a local hydrostatic response of SLP to SST: (1) the eastern Pacific, where the correlation is symmetric about and largest on the equator, and (2) the western Pacific, where symmetric regions of-negative correlation are found off the equator, separated by a region of positive correlation on the equator. Anomalies within these two patterns vary out of phase with each other. While the SLP anomalies on both sides of the basin are of similar magnitude, the SST anomalies in the east are much larger than those in the west. Despite this disparity in the SST anomaly magnitudes between the eastern and western Pacific we argue that the ocean-atmosphere couplings in the western and west-central Pacific are important for ENSO. The off-equator SST anomalies in the west enhance the SLP anomalies there, and they appear to initiate easterly wind anomalies over the far western Pacific during the peak El Nino phase of ENSO. As these easterlies evolve, their effect upon the ocean tends to oppose that of the westerly wind anomalies found over the west-central Pacific. These competing effects suggest a mechanism that may contribute to coupled ocean-atmosphere system oscillations. The west-central equatorial Pacific (the region separating the eastern and western patterns), while exhibiting large momentum and heat flux exchanges, shows minimum correlation between SST and SLP. Thus neither the SST and SLP anomaly magnitudes nor the correlation between them is alone indicative of ocean-atmosphere coupling, and the regional dependence for such coupling in relation to ENSO appears to be more complicated than mechanistic interpretations of ENSO would suggest.

Was this content written or created while at USF?

Yes

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, v. 103, no. C9, p. 18635-18648.