Contrasting El Niño–La Niña Predictability and Prediction Skill in 2-Year Reforecasts of the Twentieth Century

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Sharmila, S., Hendon, H., Alves, O., Weisheimer, A. and Balmaseda, M.. 2023. "Contrasting El Niño–La Niña Predictability and Prediction Skill in 2-Year Reforecasts of the Twentieth Century." Journal of Climate. 36 (5), pp. 1269-1285. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-22-0028.1
Article Title

Contrasting El Niño–La Niña Predictability and Prediction Skill in 2-Year Reforecasts of the Twentieth Century

ERA Journal ID1978
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsSharmila, S., Hendon, H., Alves, O., Weisheimer, A. and Balmaseda, M.
Journal TitleJournal of Climate
Journal Citation36 (5), pp. 1269-1285
Number of Pages17
Year2023
PublisherAmerican Meteorological Society
ISSN0894-8755
1520-0442
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-22-0028.1
Web Address (URL)https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/clim/36/5/JCLI-D-22-0028.1.xml
AbstractDespite the growing demand for long-range ENSO predictions beyond 1 year, quantifying the skill at these lead times remains limited. This is partly due to inadequate long records of seasonal reforecasts that make skill estimates of irregular ENSO events quite challenging. Here, we investigate ENSO predictability and the dependency of prediction skill on the ENSO cycle using 110 years of 24-month-long 10-member ensemble reforecasts from ECMWF’s coupled model (SEAS5-20C) initialized on 1 November and 1 May during 1901–2010. Results show that Niño-3.4 SST can be skillfully predicted up to ∼18 lead months when initialized on 1 November, but skill drops at ∼12 lead months for May starts that encounter the boreal spring predictability barrier in year 2. The skill beyond the first year is highly conditioned to the phase of ENSO: Forecasts initialized at peak El Niño are more skillful in year 2 than those initialized at peak La Niña, with the transition to La Niña being more predictable than to El Niño. This asymmetry is related to the subsurface initial conditions in the western equatorial Pacific: peak El Niño states evolving into La Niña are associated with strong upper-ocean heat discharge of the western Pacific, the memory of which stays beyond 1 year. In contrast, the western Pacific recharged state associated with La Niña is usually weaker and shorter-lived, being a weaker preconditioner for subsequent El Niño, the year after. High prediction skill of ENSO events beyond 1 year provides motivation for extending the lead time of operational seasonal forecasts up to 2 years.
KeywordsAtmosphere-ocean interaction; ENSO; Pacific Ocean; Climate prediction; Forecast verification/skill; Tropics
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020370202. Climatology
Byline AffiliationsCentre for Applied Climate Sciences
Australian Bureau of Meteorology
Monash University
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, United Kingdom
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
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