Scientists generally believe that ocean dynamics are the primary factor controlling El Niño sea surface temperature variability. However, new simulations show that atmospheric dynamics can account for many of the features of El Niño that were previously thought to be controlled by ocean dynamics. Dommenget uses a series of atmospheric model simulations coupled to a simple ocean model that contained no ocean dynamics. He finds that El Niño–like variations in sea surface temperature were produced in the simulations. Although ocean dynamics are a factor influencing El Niño events, the study suggests that atmospheric dynamics may be more important than previously thought in controlling El Niño. The study could change scientists' understanding of the mechanisms driving El Niño.
Title: The slab ocean El Niño
Author: Dietmar Dommenget: School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2010GL044888, 2010