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Modeling the Link Between ENSO and North Australian SSTs
Reference
Catto, J.L., Nicholls, N. and Jakob, C. 2012b. North Australian sea surface temperatures and the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation in the CMIP5 models. Journal of Climate 25: 6375-6382.

Background
The authors write that "the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is linked to the interannual climate variability of Australia, in part through its effect on the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) around northern Australia," as has been documented by Hendon (2003) and Catto et al. (2012a). And they explain that "it is important that global coupled climate models are able to represent this link between ENSO and north Australian SSTs so that we can have more confidence in the projections of future climate change for the Australian region."

What was done
In the words of Catto et al. (2012b), "the link between ENSO and north Australian SSTs has been evaluated in the models participating in CMIP5 with a view to comparing them with the CMIP3 models evaluated in Catto et al. (2012a)."

What was learned
The three Australian researchers report that: (1) "the CMIP5 models still show a wide range in their ability to represent both ENSO events themselves, and their relationship to north Australian SST," that (2) "most of the models fail to capture the strong seasonal cycle of correlation between the Niņo-3.4 and north Australian SSTs," and that (3) "the models in general are still missing some underlying process or mechanism."

What it means
Catto et al. conclude that "gaining a deeper understanding of the physical mechanism behind the strong link between the SSTs in the Niņo-3.4 region and to the north of Australia using these models" is "a vital next step" for this work, which they say is required "to elucidate the processes missing from the models that cannot capture the link."

Reference
Catto, J.L., Nicholls, N. and Jakob, C. 2012a. North Australian sea surface temperatures and the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation in observations and models. Journal of Climate 25: 5011-5029.

Reviewed 6 February 2013