Geophysical Research Letters
  • Open Access

The vertical and spatial structure of ENSO in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere from GPS radio occultation measurements



[1] The vertical and spatial structure of the atmospheric El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal is investigated using radio occultation (RO) data from August 2006 to December 2010. Due to their high vertical resolution and global coverage, RO data are well suited to describe the full 3-dimensional ENSO structure in the troposphere and lower stratosphere. We find that interannual temperature anomalies in the equatorial region show a natural decomposition into zonal-mean and eddy (deviations from the zonal-mean) components that are both related to ENSO. Consistent with previous studies, we find that during the warm phase of ENSO, zonal-mean temperatures increase in the tropical troposphere and decrease in the tropical stratosphere. Maximum warming occurs above 8 km, and the transition between warming and cooling occurs near the tropopause. This zonal-mean response lags sea surface temperature anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific by 3 months. The atmospheric eddy component, in contrast, responds rapidly (within 1 month) to ENSO forcing. This signal features a low-latitude dipole between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with off-equatorial maxima centered around 20° to 30° latitude in both hemispheres. The eddy response pattern attains maximum amplitude in the upper troposphere near 11 km and (with opposite polarity) in a shallow layer near the tropopause at approximately 17 km. The eddy ENSO signal tends to be out-of-phase between low and middle latitudes in both the troposphere and lower stratosphere.