Smith, C. A., and P. D. Sardeshmukh, 2000: The effect of ENSO on the intraseasonal variance of surface temperature in winter. Int. J. Climatol., 20, 1543-1557.


The effect of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the probability distribution of daily surface air temperature over the Pacific-North American sector is investigated using the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Reanalysis data for 1959-1998. The El Niño response is characterized by reduced intraseasonal variance over most of the US, western Canada and the Gulf of Alaska. Conversely, there is an increase of variance during La Niña over the US and the west coast, northward to Alaska. The sign of this response is consistent for most individual El Niño/La Niña years in regions with a strong signal. The response is also robust with respect to differing definitions of ENSO or choice of dataset. Finally, a similar response is evident in station data for an earlier period. The change of variance is associated both with altered skewness, and a change in high and low extremes. Extremes of both signs are reduced during El Niño, and are slightly increased during La Niña. These results are consistent with other studies, suggesting an increased incidence of blocking along the west coast of North America during El Niño, leading to less storm activity and less incursions of warm and cold air over the eastern US. While an understanding of the changed variance is important in itself, it also has implications for changes in exceedence statistics (e.g. heating degree days) and the occurrence of extreme values.