AbstractAn evaluation of El Niño–La Niña asymmetry is conducted in two latest NCAR coupled models (CCSM4 and CESM1) sharing the same ocean component. Results show that two coupled models generally underestimate observed ENSO asymmetry, mainly owing to an overestimate of the cold SST anomaly during the La Niña phase. The weaker ENSO asymmetry corresponds to a cold bias in mean SST climatology that is more severe in CESM1 than in CCSM4, despite a better performance in simulating ENSO asymmetry in the former. Corresponding AMIP (CAM4 and CAM5) runs are examined to probe the origin of the weaker ENSO asymmetry in coupled models. The analysis reveals a stronger time mean zonal wind in AMIP models, favoring a cold bias in mean SST. The bias of the stronger mean wind, associated with changes in mean precipitation, is more significant in CAM5 than in CAM4. The simulated skewness of the interannual variability of zonal winds is weaker than observations, but somewhat improved in CAM5 compared to CAM4, primarily resulting from a more westward shift of easterly wind anomalies tied to the displacement of precipitation anomalies during the cold phase. Wind-forced ocean GCM experiments confirm that the bias in AMIP model winds can weaken ENSO asymmetry, with the contribution from the wind interannual variability being larger than from the mean winds. This demonstrates that the bias in ENSO asymmetry in coupled models can be traced back to the bias in the stand-alone atmosphere models to a large extent. The results pinpoint a pathway to reduce the bias in ENSO asymmetry in coupled models.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Sep 6, 2017
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