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Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 13;7(1):166. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-00244-2.

Surface Current in "Hotspot" Serves as a New and Effective Precursor for El Niño Prediction.

Wang J1,2, Lu Y3, Wang F4,5,6, Zhang RH1,2,7.

Author information

1
Key Laboratory of Ocean Circulation and Waves, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, China.
2
Laboratory for Ocean and Climate Dynamics, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China.
3
Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans of Canada, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
4
Key Laboratory of Ocean Circulation and Waves, Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, China. fwang@qdio.ac.cn.
5
Laboratory for Ocean and Climate Dynamics, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China. fwang@qdio.ac.cn.
6
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China. fwang@qdio.ac.cn.
7
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.

Abstract

The El Niño and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the most prominent sources of inter-annual climate variability. Related to the seasonal phase-locking, ENSO's prediction across the low-persistence barrier in the boreal spring remains a challenge. Here we identify regions where surface current variability influences the short-lead time predictions of the July Niño 3.4 index by applying a regression analysis. A highly influential region, related to the distribution of wind-stress curl and sea surface temperature, is located near the dateline and the southern edge of the South Equatorial Current. During El Niño years, a westward current anomaly in the identified high-influence region favours the accumulation of warm water in the western Pacific. The opposite occurs during La Niña years. This process is seen to serve as the "goal shot" for ENSO development, which provides an effective precursor for the prediction of the July Niño 3.4 index with a lead time of 2-4 months. The prediction skill based on surface current precursor beats that based on the warm water volume and persistence in the subsequent months after July. In particular, prediction based on surface current precursor shows skill in all years, while predictions based on other precursors show reduced skill after 2002.

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