Upscale feedback of high-frequency winds to ENSO



The impact of the high-frequency (HF, <90 days) variability on low-frequency (LF) interannual sea surface temperature (SST) variations associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is investigated by conducting a series of oceanic general circulation model experiments. Two nonlinear rectification mechanisms are examined. The first is the internal oceanic nonlinear dynamics and the second is the nonlinear rectification of the LF surface wind stress by the HF wind. Numerical simulations show that the latter is dominant in modulating the LF SST variability. The HF wind increases both the amplitude and skewness of the LF wind stress anomaly. As a result, it increases both the amplitude and skewness of the SST anomaly (SSTA) in the eastern equatorial Pacific. For strong El Niño events in 1982/83 and 1997/98, such a nonlinear rectification effect may result in a SSTA increase of 1°C. A mixed-layer heat budget analysis reveals that whereas meridional and vertical advections primarily contribute to the strengthening of the warm and cold episodes, the nonlinear zonal advection is responsible for the increase of the SSTA skewness. Including the nonlinear rectification of the HF wind on both the surface wind stress and heat flux anomalies leads to a positively (negatively) skewed SSTA in the eastern (central) Pacific. Thus the combined dynamic and thermodynamic effect reshapes the ENSO zonal structure in such a way that it makes the maximum SSTA confined further to the eastern equatorial Pacific. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society