Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

ENSO-related rainfall changes over the New Guinea region

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Abstract

[1] The large-scale nature of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) impacts on rainfall in the western Pacific region is generally well known but in some regions, where there are relatively few observations and the terrain is mountainous, the details of the impacts are less obvious. Here we analyze rainfall data for the New Guinea region comprising station observations, reanalysis products, and satellite-based estimates in order to better understand some of these details. We find that most gridded products are limited due to their relatively coarse horizontal resolutions that fail to resolve topographic effects. However, the relatively fine resolution Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission satellite-based product appears to provide reliable estimates and linear correlations between the data and the NINO34 sea surface temperature index provides an insight into the pattern of ENSO rainfall impacts. The first major finding is that the correlation patterns reveal that some highland regions are impacted differently to other surrounding regions, most likely because of the interaction between winds and topography. Second, we find that the association between ENSO and rainfall for stations in the New Ireland/New Britain region tends to be nonlinear, in the sense that warm (El Niño)/cool (La Niña) events cause a decrease in rainfall—the strong 2010–2011 La Niña event being a clear example. Both findings help explain why previous studies have tended not to identify a simple large-scale response of New Guinea rainfall to ENSO.

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