Nonlinearities in the Evolutional Distinctions Between El Niño and La Niña Types

K. Ashok, M. Shamal, A. K. Sahai, P. Swapna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Using the HadISST, SODA reanalysis, and various other observed and reanalyzed data sets for the period 1950–2010, we explore nonlinearities in the subsurface evolutional distinctions between El Niño types and La Niña types from a few seasons before the onset. Cluster analysis carried out over both summer and winter suggests that while the warm-phased events of both types are distinguishable, several cold phased events are clustered together. Further, we apply a joint Self-Organizing Map (SOM) analysis using the monthly sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) and thermocline-depth anomalies in tropical Pacific (TP). Results reveal that the evolutionary paths of El Niño Modoki (EM) and El Niño (EL) are, broadly, different. Subsurface temperature composites of EL and EM show different onset characteristics. During an EL, warm anomaly in the west spreads eastward along the thermocline and reaches the surface in the east in March–May of year(0). During an EM, warm anomaly already exists in the central tropical Pacific and then reaches the surface in the east in September–November of year(0). Composited SSTAs during La Niña (LN) and La Niña Modoki (LM) are distinguishable only at 80% confidence level, but the composited subsurface temperature anomalies show differences in the location of the coldest anomaly as well as evolution at 90% confidence level. Thus, the El Niño flavor distinction is potentially predictable at longer leads.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9649-9662
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


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