To what extent is tropical variability forced from the North Pacific through ocean pathways relative to locally generated variability and variability forced through the atmosphere? To address this question, in this study we use an anomaly-coupled model, consisting of a global, atmospheric general circulation model and a 4½-layer, reduced-gravity, Pacific-Ocean model. Three solutions are obtained; with coupling over the entire basin (CNT), with coupling confined to the tropics and wind stress and heat fluxes in the North and South Pacific specified by climatology (TP), and with coupling confined to the Tropics and wind stress and heat fluxes in the North Pacific specified by output from CNT (NPF). It is found that there are two distinct signals forced in the North Pacific that can impact the tropics through ocean pathways. These two signals are forced by wind stress and surface heat flux anomalies in the subtropical North Pacific. The first signal is relatively fast, impacts tropical variability less than a year after forcing, is triggered from November to March, and propagates as a first-mode baroclinic Rossby wave. The second signal is only triggered during springtime when buoyancy forcing can effectively generate higher-order baroclinic modes through subduction anomalies into the permanent thermocline, and it reaches the equator 4–5 years after forcing. The slow signal is found to initiate tropical variability more efficiently than the fast signal with one standard deviation in subtropical zonal wind stress forcing tropical SST anomalies centered on the equator at 135°W of approximately 0.5°C. Allowing extratropically forced tropical variability is found to shift primarily 2-year ENSO variability in a tropics-alone simulation to a more realistic range of 2–6 years.
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