Intensified ENSO-Driven Precipitation Teleconnections in the Future

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 12:00 PM
Celine Bonfils1, Benjamin D Santer2, Thomas J Phillips1, Kate Marvel1, L. Ruby Leung3 and Charles Doutriaux1, (1)Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA, United States, (2)LLNL, Livermore, CA, United States, (3)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an important driver of regional hydroclimate variability through far-reaching teleconnections. Most climate models project an increase in the frequency of extreme El Niño events under increased greenhouse-gas (GHG) forcing. However, it is unclear how other aspects of ENSO and ENSO-driven teleconnections will evolve in the future. Here, we identify in 20th century sea-surface temperature (SST) observations a time-invariant ENSO-like (ENSOL) pattern that is largely uncontaminated by GHG forcing. We use this pattern to investigate the future precipitation (P) response to ENSO-like SST anomalies. Models that better capture observed ENSOL characteristics produce P teleconnection patterns that are in better accord with observations and more stationary in the 21st century. We decompose the future P response to ENSOL into the sum of three terms: (1) the change in P mean state, (2) the historical P response to ENSOL, and (3) a future enhancement in the P response to ENSOL. In many regions, this last term can aggravate the P extremes associated with ENSO variability. This simple decomposition allows us to identify regions likely to experience ENSOL-induced P changes that are without precedent in the current climate. This work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344.