Intrinsic Century-Scale Variability in Tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures and Their Influence on Western US Hydroclimate

Colin Evans, Sloan Coats, Carlos Carrillo, Xiaolu Li, Marc Alessi, Dimitris Herrera, Brandon Benton, Toby Ault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hydroclimate variability of the southwest United States (SWUS) is influenced by the tropical Pacific Ocean, particularly through the teleconnection to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is expected to be altered by climate change. Natural variability in this teleconnection has not been robustly quantified, complicating the detection of anthropogenic climate change. Here, we use a linear inverse model (LIM) to quantify natural variability in the ENSO-SWUS teleconnection. The LIM yields realistic teleconnection patterns with century-scale variability comparable to simulations from the Last Millennium Ensemble project and the Climate Model Intercomparison Project Phases 5 and 6. The variability quantified by the LIM illuminates two aspects of our understanding of ENSO and its impacts: the inherent statistics of the observable system can produce century-long periods with a wide range of correlations to SWUS hydroclimate, including nonsignificant correlations, and thus that detecting changes in ENSO-related hydroclimate variability is challenging in a changing climate.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2022GL099770
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume49
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Authors.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-85533

Keywords

  • El Nino/Southern Oscillation
  • ENSO
  • southwest United States
  • teleconnections

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