Regional Intensification of the Tropical Hydrological Cycle During ENSO Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. This study provides observational evidence for feedbacks that amplify the short-term hydrological response associated with the warm phase of the El Nio-Southern Oscillation. Our analyses make use of a comprehensive set of independent satellite observations collected over decades to show that much larger local changes to cloud (~50%/K) and precipitation (~60%/K) occur than would be expected from the guidance of Clausius-Clapeyron theory (~7%/K). This amplification comes from atmospheric feedbacks involving shifts in the patterns of latent and radiative heating that mutually act on the dynamics enhancing changes to the hydrological cycle. We also confirm the existence of an opposing negative flux feedback at the ocean surface, driven largely by solar radiation changes, that opposes the surface warming. Estimates of the strength of this and other feedback factors associated with warming in the Nio3 region are provided from observations. These observations are also used to examine comparative processes and feedbacks in model experiments from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Stephens, G. L., Hakuba, M. Z., Webb, M. J., Lebsock, M., Yue, Q., Kahn, B. H., ... Slingo, J.

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Stephens, Graeme L||Hakuba, Maria Z||Webb, Mark J||Lebsock, Matthew||Yue, Qing||Kahn, Brian H||Hristova-Veleva, Svetla||Rapp, Anita D||Stubenrauch, Claudia J||Elsaesser, Gregory S||Slingo, Julia

publication date

  • May 2018