Separating the North and South Pacific Meridional Modes Contributions to ENSO and Tropical Decadal Variability

Giovanni Liguori, Emanuele Di Lorenzo

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37 Citations (Scopus)


North and South Pacific Meridional Modes (NPMM and SPMM) are known precursors of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Tropical Pacific decadal variability (TPDV). However, the relative importance of these precursors and the timescale on which they impact the tropics remain unclear. Using a 30-member ensemble of the Community Earth System Model as the control climate, we generate two additional members where the NPMM and SPMM are selectively suppressed. We find that both meridional modes energize the tropical variance independently on different timescales. The absence of NPMM leads to a significant reduction of the tropical interannual variability (~35%), while the absence of the SPMM has no appreciable impact on ENSO but significantly reduces the TPDV (~30%). While the relative importance of the NPMM and SPMM may be model dependent, the stochastic atmospheric variability in the extratropics that energizes the meridional modes emerges as a key source of TPDV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-915
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2019


  • ENSO
  • ENSO precursors
  • North Pacific Meridional Mode
  • Pacific climate variability
  • South Pacific Meridional Mode
  • Tropical Pacific decadal variability

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