Statistical evidence for the natural variation of the central Pacific El Niño
Article first published online: 15 JUN 2012
©2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (1978–2012)
Volume 117, Issue C6, June 2012
How to Cite
2012), Statistical evidence for the natural variation of the central Pacific El Niño, J. Geophys. Res., 117, C06014, doi:10.1029/2012JC008003., , and (
- Issue published online: 15 JUN 2012
- Article first published online: 15 JUN 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 2 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Received: 23 FEB 2012
- central Pacific El Niño;
- natural variation;
- warm pool El Niño
 Extensive studies claimed that the central equatorial Pacific (CP) El Niño has occurred more frequently and strongly than the eastern equatorial Pacific El Niño in recent years. To explain this phenomenon, spatial patterns and principal component time series from several sea surface temperature (SST) data sets in the tropical Pacific are analyzed for the period of 1951–2010. Cyclostationary empirical orthogonal function analysis separates two modes of SST variability, which explain about 50% and 10% of the total SST variability, respectively. Their spatial and temporal patterns are similar among the different SST data sets. The first mode captures the typical El Niño pattern, while the second mode is a dipole pattern in the tropical Pacific. The two modes are, by definition, uncorrelated over the analysis period but are in phase since the late 1990s; superposition of the two modes results in a significant warming in the CP region, which is a potential explanation for a more frequent occurrence of the CP El Niño in the recent decades. Similar analysis is conducted based on the 500 year data from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model version 2.1 under the preindustrial condition. The result is generally consistent with the observations yielding occasional in-phase relationship between the two modes. Thus, it cannot be ruled out that a more frequent occurrence of the CP El Niño in recent years is a natural feature of the equatorial climate system.