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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 9;7:42281. doi: 10.1038/srep42281.

ENSO elicits opposing responses of semi-arid vegetation between Hemispheres.

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CAS Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China.
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA.


Semi-arid ecosystems are key contributors to the global carbon cycle and may even dominate the inter-annual variability (IAV) and trends of the land carbon sink, driven largely by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The linkages between dynamics of semi-arid ecosystems and climate at the hemispheric scale however are not well known. Here, we use satellite data and climate observations from 2000 to 2014 to explore the impacts of ENSO on variability of semi-arid ecosystems, using the Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition method. We show that the responses of semi-arid vegetation to ENSO occur in opposite directions, resulting from opposing controls of ENSO on precipitation between the Northern Hemisphere (positively correlated to ENSO) and the Southern Hemisphere (negatively correlated to ENSO). Also, the Southern Hemisphere, with a robust negative coupling of temperature and precipitation anomalies, exhibits stronger and faster responses of semi-arid ecosystems to ENSO than the Northern Hemisphere. Our findings suggest that natural coherent variability in semi-arid ecosystem productivity responded to ENSO in opposite ways between two hemispheres, which may imply potential prediction of global semi-arid ecosystem variability, particularly based on variability in tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures.

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