Effects of 1997–1998 El Niño on tropospheric ozone and water vapor

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of the 1997–1998 El Niño on tropospheric column ozone and tropospheric water vapor derived respectively from the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on Earth Probe and the Microwave Limb Scanning instrument on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. The 1997-1998 El Niño, characterized by an anomalous increase in sea-surface temperature (SST) across the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, is one of the strongest El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events of the century, comparable in magnitude to the 1982–1983 episode. The major impact of the SST change has been the shift in the convection pattern from the western to the eastern Pacific affecting the response of rain-producing cumulonimbus. As a result, there has been a significant increase in rainfall over the eastern Pacific and a decrease over the western Pacific and Indonesia. The dryness in the Indonesian region has contributed to large-scale burning by uncontrolled wildfires in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. Our study shows that tropospheric column ozone decreased by 4–8 Dobson units (DU) in the eastern Pacific and increased by about 10–20 DU in the western Pacific largely as a result of the eastward shift of the tropical convective activity as inferred from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) data. The effect of this shift is also evident in the upper tropospheric water vapor mixing ratio which varies inversely as ozone (O3). These conclusions are qualitatively consistent with the changes in atmospheric circulation derived from zonal and vertical wind data obtained from the Goddard Earth Observing System data assimilation analyses. The changes in tropospheric column O3 during the course of the 1997–1998 El Niño appear to be caused by a combination of large-scale circulation processes associated with the shift in the tropical convection pattern and surface/boundary layer processes associated with forest fires in the Indonesian region.

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