Indo-Pacific variability on seasonal to multidecadal time scales. Part II: Multiscale atmosphere-ocean linkages

Dimitrios Giannakis, Joanna Slawinska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coupled atmosphere-ocean variability of the Indo-Pacific domain on seasonal to multidecadal time scales is investigated in CCSM4 and in observations through nonlinear Laplacian spectral analysis (NLSA). It is found that ENSO modes and combination modes of ENSO with the annual cycle exhibit a seasonally synchronized southward shift of equatorial surface zonal winds and thermocline adjustment consistent with terminating El Niño and La Niña events. The surface winds associated with these modes also generate teleconnections between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, leading to SST anomalies characteristic of the Indian Ocean dipole. The family of NLSA ENSO modes is used to study El Niño-La Niña asymmetries, and it is found that a group of secondary ENSO modes with more rapidly decorrelating temporal patterns contributes significantly to positively skewed SST and zonal wind statistics. Besides ENSO, fundamental and combination modes representing the tropospheric biennial oscillation (TBO) are found to be consistent with mechanisms for seasonally synchronized biennial variability of the Asian-Australian monsoon and Walker circulation. On longer time scales, a multidecadal pattern referred to as the west Pacific multidecadal mode (WPMM) is established to significantly modulate ENSO and TBO activity, with periods of negative SST anomalies in the western tropical Pacific favoring stronger ENSO and TBO variability. This behavior is attributed to the fact that cold WPMM phases feature anomalous decadal westerlies in the tropical central Pacific, as well as an anomalously flat zonal thermocline profile in the equatorial Pacific. Moreover, the WPMM is found to correlate significantly with decadal precipitation over Australia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-725
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • ENSO
  • Interannual variability
  • Interdecadal variability
  • Pattern detection
  • Tropical variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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