• El Niño;
  • La Niña;
  • ENSO Modoki;
  • precipitation anomalies;
  • South America


Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the Pacific Ocean during El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episodes exhibit different spatial patterns from year to year. In most ENSO studies, SST anomalies have been analysed in the 3.4 or 3.0 El Niño regions. Recent analyses have considered different SST anomalies areas in the Pacific, such as ENSO Modoki, which takes into account anomalies in the central Pacific which are bounded by opposite anomalies in the eastern and western Pacific. In order to analyse the influence of different Pacific spatial patterns on South American precipitation and on the Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, composites obtained from Canonical ENSO were compared with those from ENSO Modoki in cases when strong anomalies were present in the Central Pacific. During the Canonical El Niño (La Niña), there tends to be a precipitation increase (decrease) in the La Plata Basin (LPB, 45°W–65°W, 15°S–35°S) and a decrease (increase) over northern South America during all seasons. In ENSO Modoki exhibiting strong anomalies in the Central Pacific, these typical patterns are not observed, and in some regions the anomalies even show opposite signs. Precipitation anomaly differences or similarities over South America between the two cases occur in different areas and different seasons. In both cases, differences in tropical South American precipitation during both ENSO types are related to differences in the Walker circulation. In extra-tropical South America, the precipitation differences are due to differences in the Pacific wavetrains and differences in moisture flux intensity over the continent. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society