Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Contributions of Indian Ocean and Monsoon Biases to the Excessive Biennial ENSO in CCSM3


The Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), is known to produce many aspects of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) realistically, but the simulated ENSO exhibits an overly strong biennial periodicity. Hypotheses on the cause of this excessive biennial tendency have thus far focused primarily on the model’s biases within the tropical Pacific. This study conducts CCSM3 experiments to show that the model’s biases in simulating the Indian Ocean mean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the Indian and Australian monsoon variability also contribute to the biennial ENSO tendency. Two CCSM3 simulations are contrasted: a control run that includes global ocean–atmosphere coupling and an experiment in which the air–sea coupling in the tropical Indian Ocean is turned off by replacing simulated SSTs with an observed monthly climatology. The decoupling experiment removes CCSM3’s warm bias in the tropical Indian Ocean and reduces the biennial variability in Indian and Australian monsoons by about 40% and 60%, respectively. The excessive biennial ENSO is found to reduce dramatically by about 75% in the decoupled experiment. It is shown that the biennial monsoon variability in CCSM3 excites an anomalous surface wind pattern in the western Pacific that projects well into the wind pattern associated with the onset phase of the simulated biennial ENSO. Therefore, the biennial monsoon variability is very effective in exciting biennial ENSO variability in CCSM3. The warm SST bias in the tropical Indian Ocean also increases ENSO variability by inducing stronger mean surface easterlies along the equatorial Pacific, which strengthen the Pacific ocean–atmosphere coupling and enhance the ENSO intensity.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View