The nonnormal nature of El Nino and intraseasonal variability

Andrew M. Moore, Richard Kleeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The idea that intraseasonal variability in the tropical west Pacific can act as an effective means of stochastically forcing ENSO episodes is explored. Using the ideas of generalized linear stability theory as they apply to nonnormal dynamical systems, the physical attributes of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropics that allow perturbations with structures that are dissimilar to ENSO to act as precursors for ENSO episodes are examined. Using a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, two particularly important factors are identified that contribute to the nonnormality of the coupled system: nonsolar atmospheric heating directly related to SST changes, and the dissimilarity between the equatorial ocean wave reflection process at eastern and western boundaries. The latter is intrinsic to the dynamics of the ocean, while the former is related to the presence of the west Pacific warm pool and its relationship with the Walker circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2965-2982
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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