National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Characterizing warm-ENSO variability in the equatorial Pacific: An OLR perspective

Chiodi, A.M., and D.E. Harrison

J. Climate, 23, 2428–2439, doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI3030.1 (2010)

It is shown that space-time smoothed outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) indices of equatorial Pacific seasonal variability can give an interestingly different perspective on El Niño than is obtained from sea surface temperature (SST) indices or the Southern Oscillation index (SOI.) In particular, the index defined by averaging over an eastern central region exhibits strongly event-like character; more so than in any other El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) warm-phase index known to the authors. Although the historical record for OLR is much shorter than for SST or SOI, OLR offers a direct connection to anomalous atmospheric heating. It is suggested that the years identified as events by this OLR index deserve particular recognition, and it is noteworthy that they are all commonly agreed to be “El Niño” years. Other years, whose warm-ENSO status differs depending upon the index favored, are not particularly distinctive from an OLR perspective and a case could be made that either they do not deserve special classification or that they should be identified as different from the OLR-distinguished El Niño years.

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