Can we distinguish canonical El Niño from Modoki?
Karnauskas, Kristopher B.
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Following the recent discovery of the “Modoki” El Niño, a proliferation of studies and debates has ensued concerning whether Modoki is dynamically distinct from “Canonical” El Niño, how Modoki impacts and teleconnections differ, and whether Modoki events have been increasing in frequency or amplitude. Three decades of reliable, high temporal-resolution observations of coupled ocean-atmosphere variability in the equatorial Pacific reveal a rich diversity of El Niños. Although central and eastern Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies appear mechanistically separable in terms of local and remote forcing, their frequent overlap precludes robust classifications. All observed El Niños appear to be a mixture of locally (central Pacific) and remotely forced (eastern Pacific) SST anomalies. Submonthly resolution appears essential for this insight and for the proper dynamical diagnosis of El Niño evolution; thus, the use of long-term monthly reconstructions for classification and trend analysis is strongly cautioned against.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2013. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 40 (2013): 5246–5251, doi:10.1002/grl.51007.