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Divergent El Niño responses to volcanic eruptions at different latitudes over the past millennium

Liu, Fei, Li, Jinbao, Wang, Bin, Liu, Jian, Li, Tim, Huang, Gang, Wang, Zhiyuan
Climate dynamics 2018 v.50 no.9-10 pp. 3799-3812
El Nino, climate, climate models, cooling, global warming, latitude, prediction, radiative forcing, simulation models, wind direction, winter
Detection and attribution of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) responses to radiative forcing perturbation are critical for predicting the future change of ENSO under global warming. One of such forcing perturbation is the volcanic eruption. Our understanding of the responses of ENSO system to explosive tropical volcanic eruptions remains controversial, and we know little about the responses to high-latitude eruptions. Here, we synthesize proxy-based ENSO reconstructions, to show that there exist an El Niño-like response to the Northern Hemisphere (NH) and tropical eruptions and a La Niña-like response to the Southern Hemisphere (SH) eruptions over the past millennium. Our climate model simulation results show good agreement with the proxy records. The simulation reveals that due to different meridional thermal contrasts, the westerly wind anomalies can be excited over the tropical Pacific to the south of, at, or to the north of the equator in the first boreal winter after the NH, tropical, or SH eruptions, respectively. Thus, the eastern-Pacific El Niño can develop and peak in the second winter after the NH and tropical eruptions via the Bjerknes feedback. The model simulation only shows a central-Pacific El Niño-like response to the SH eruptions. The reason is that the anticyclonic wind anomaly associated with the SH eruption-induced southeast Pacific cooling will excite westward current anomalies and prevent the development of eastern-Pacific El Niño-like anomaly. These divergent responses to eruptions at different latitudes and in different hemispheres underline the sensitivity of the ENSO system to the spatial structure of radiative disturbances in the atmosphere.