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Title: Relative Contributions of Mean-State Shifts and ENSO-Driven Variability to Precipitation Changes in a Warming Climate

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an important driver of regional hydroclimate variability through far-reaching teleconnections. Most climate models project an increase in the frequency of extreme El Niño events under increased greenhouse-gas (GHG) forcing. However, it is unclear how other aspects of ENSO and ENSO-driven teleconnections will evolve in the future. Here, we identify in 20th century sea-surface temperature (SST) observations a time-invariant ENSO-like (ENSOL) pattern that is largely uncontaminated by GHG forcing. We use this pattern to investigate the future precipitation (P) response to ENSO-like SST anomalies. Models that better capture observed ENSOL characteristics produce P teleconnection patterns that are in better accord with observations and more stationary in the 21st century. We decompose the future P response to ENSOL into the sum of three terms: (1) the change in P mean state, (2) the historical P response to ENSOL, and (3) a future enhancement in the P response to ENSOL. In many regions, this last term can aggravate the P extremes associated with ENSO variability. This simple decomposition allows us to identify regions likely to experience ENSOL-induced P changes that are without precedent in the current climate.
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Climate, 28(24):9997-10013
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
El Niño-Southern Oscillation; ENSO; greenhouse-gas; GHG; teleconnection; sea-surface temperature; SST