A Unified Oscillator Model for the El Niño-Southern Oscillation
The delayed oscillator, the western Pacific oscillator, the recharge-discharge oscillator, and the advective-reflective oscillator have been proposed to interpret the oscillatory nature of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). All of these oscillator models assume a positive ocean-atmosphere feedback in the equatorial eastern and central Pacific. The delayed oscillator assumes that the western Pacific is an inactive region and wave reflection at the western boundary provides a negative feedback for the coupled system to oscillate. The western Pacific oscillator emphasizes an active role of the western Pacific in ENSO. The recharge-discharge oscillator argues that discharge and recharge of equatorial heat content cause the coupled system to oscillate. The advective-reflective oscillator emphasizes the importance of zonal advection associated with wave reflection at both the western and eastern boundaries. Motivated by the existence of these different oscillator models, a unified oscillator model is formulated and derived from the dynamics and thermodynamics of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Consistent with ENSO anomaly patterns observed in the tropical Pacific, this oscillator model considers sea surface temperature anomalies in the equatorial eastern Pacific, zonal wind stress anomalies in both the equatorial central Pacific and the equatorial western Pacific, and thermocline depth anomalies in the off-equatorial western Pacific. If the western Pacific wind-forced response is neglected, thermocline and zonal wind stress anomalies in the western Pacific are decoupled from the coupled system, and the unified oscillator reduces to the delayed oscillator. If wave reflection at the western boundary is neglected, the unified oscillator reduces to the western Pacific oscillator. The mathematical form of the recharge-discharge oscillator can also be derived from this unified oscillator. Most of the physics of the advective-reflective oscillator are implicitly included in the unified oscillator, and the negative feedback of wave reflection at the eastern boundary is added to the unified oscillator. With appropriate model parameters chosen to be consistent with those of previous oscillator models, the unified oscillator model oscillates on interannual timescales.