2013 Volume 91 Issue 6 Pages 835-842
During the late 1970s, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) experienced a notable regime change, manifested by a change in amplitude, dominant ENSO period, and sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) propagation characteristics. The present study shows that these features of the ENSO regime change are associated with property changes of the canonical ENSO, i.e., cold-tongue (CT) type ENSO. Another signature of the ENSO regime change is manifested in the frequent occurrence of a warm-pool (WP) type ENSO that accompanies SSTAs centered over the central Pacific near the WP edge and exhibits characteristics differing from those of the CT ENSO. The distinct manifestations of the two types of ENSO detected in this ENSO regime change are clearly identifiable with the removal of the strong background decadal signal. Since the late 1970s, the WP ENSO has featured a weak eastward (westward) propagation of the SSTA center in the developing (decaying) phase, which makes no net contribution to the observed eastward propagation, and a 2-3 yr period compared to the 4-5 yr period of the CT ENSO. Observations strongly suggest that the WP and CT ENSO are independent quasi-biennial and quasi-quadrennial modes, respectively, of the tropical Pacific climate variability. Our observations also suggest that these two ENSO modes have coexisted actively since the late 1970s when either El Niño or La Niña can be separated into the two types.