Statistical analysis of observations (including atmospheric reanalysis and forced ocean model simulations) is used to address two questions: First, does an analogous mechanism to that of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) exist in the equatorial Atlantic or Indian Ocean? Second, does the intrinsic variability in these basins matter for ENSO predictability? These questions are addressed by assessing the existence and strength of the Bjerknes and delayed negative feedbacks in each tropical basin, and by fitting conceptual recharge oscillator models, both with and without interactions among the basins.
In the equatorial Atlantic the Bjerknes and delayed negative feedbacks exist, although weaker than in the Pacific. Equatorial Atlantic variability is well described by the recharge oscillator model, with an oscillatory mixed ocean dynamics–sea surface temperature (SST) mode present in boreal spring and summer. The dynamics of the tropical Indian Ocean, however, appear to be quite different: no recharge–discharge mechanism is found. Although a positive Bjerknes-like feedback from July to September is found, the role of heat content seems secondary.
Results also show that Indian Ocean interaction with ENSO tends to damp the ENSO oscillation and is responsible for a frequency shift to shorter periods. However, the retrospective forecast skill of the conceptual model is hardly improved by explicitly including Indian Ocean SST. The interaction between ENSO and the equatorial Atlantic variability is weaker. However, a feedback from the Atlantic on ENSO appears to exist, which slightly improves the retrospective forecast skill of the conceptual model.