19 Aug 2020

19 Aug 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

The sensitivity of the ENSO to volcanic aerosol spatial distribution in the MPI large ensemble

Benjamin Ward1, Francesco S. R. Pausata1, and Nicola Maher2 Benjamin Ward et al.
  • 1Département des sciences de la Terre et de l'atmosphère, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada
  • 2Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Using the Max Planck Institute Grand Ensemble (MPI-GE) with 200 members for the historical simulation (1850–2005), we investigate the impact of the spatial distribution of volcanic aerosols on the ENSO response. In particular, we select 3 eruptions (El Chichón, Agung and Pinatubo) in which the aerosol is respectively confined to the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere or equally distributed across the equator. Our results show that the ENSO anomalies start at the end of the year of the eruption and peak the following one. Especially, we found that when the aerosol is located in the Northern Hemisphere or is symmetrically distributed, El Niño-like anomalies develop while aerosol distribution confined to the Southern Hemisphere leads to a La Niña-like anomaly. Our results strongly point to the volcanically induced displacement of the ITCZ as the main mechanism that drives the ENSO response, while suggesting that the other mechanisms (the ocean dynamical thermostat, the cooling of tropical northern Africa or of the Maritime continent) commonly invoked to explain the post-eruption ENSO response appear not to be at play in our model.

Benjamin Ward et al.

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Benjamin Ward et al.

Benjamin Ward et al.


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Short summary
Using the largest ensemble of a climate model currently available: the Max Planck Institute Grand Ensemble (MPI-GE), we investigated the impact of the spatial distribution of volcanic aerosols on the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) response. By selecting 3 eruptions with different aerosol distribution, we found that the shift of the intertropical convergencence zone (ITCZ) is the main driver of the ENSO response while other mechanisms commonly invoked seems not to be at play in our model.