The pacific meridional mode as an ENSO precursor and predictor in the North American multimodel ensemble

Sarah M. Larson, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Although modeling and observational studies have highlighted a robust relationship between the Pacific meridional mode (PMM) and El Nin&tild;o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-namely, that the PMM is often a precursor to El Nin&tild;o events-it remains unclear if this relationship has any real predictive use. Bridging the gap between theory and practical application is essential, because the potential use of the PMM precursor as a supplemental tool for ENSO prediction has been implied but not yet implemented into a realistic forecast setting. In this paper, a suite of sea surface temperature hindcasts is utilized from the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) prediction experiment between 1982 and 2010. The goal is first to assess the NMME's ability to forecast the PMM precursor and second to examine the relationship between PMM and ENSO within a forecast framework. In terms of model performance, results are optimistic in that not only is PMMvariability captured well by the multimodel ensemble mean, but it also appears as a precursor to ENSO events in the NMME. In forecast mode, positive PMM events predict eastern Pacific El Nin&tild;o events in both observations and model forecasts with some skill, yet with less skill for central Pacific El Nin&tild;o events. Conversely, negative PMM events poorly predict La Nin&tild;a events in observations, yet the model forecasts fail to capture this observed representation. There proves to be considerable opportunity for improvement of the PMM-ENSO relationship in the forecast models; accordingly, the predictive use of PMM for certain types of ENSO events may also see improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7018-7032
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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