Influence of ENSO on North American subseasonal surface air temperature variability

Martineau, Patrick; Nakamura, Hisashi; Kosaka, Yu

The wintertime influence of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) variability on subseasonal variability is revisited by identifying the dominant mode of covariability between 10–60 d band-pass-filtered surface air temperature (SAT) variability over the North American continent and winter-mean SST over the tropical Pacific. We find that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) explains a dominant fraction of the year-to-year changes in subseasonal SAT variability that are covarying with SST and thus likely more predictable. In agreement with previous studies, we find a tendency for La Niña conditions to enhance the subseasonal SAT variability over western North America. This modulation of subseasonal variability is achieved through interactions between subseasonal eddies and La Niña-related changes in the winter-mean circulation. Specifically, eastward-propagating quasi-stationary eddies over the North Pacific are more efficient in extracting energy from the mean flow through the baroclinic conversion during La Niña. Structural changes of these eddies are crucial to enhance the efficiency of the energy conversion via amplified downgradient heat fluxes that energize subseasonal eddy thermal anomalies. The enhanced likelihood of cold extremes over western North America is associated with both an increased subseasonal SAT variability and the cold winter-mean response to La Niña.

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Martineau, Patrick / Nakamura, Hisashi / Kosaka, Yu: Influence of ENSO on North American subseasonal surface air temperature variability. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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