A discrepancy remains in the first two leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF) modes of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) based on observations since the 1980s. The EOF1 mode, representing the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is a robust result. However, the EOF2 features either El Niño Modoki (EM) or ENSO evolution during different periods, which is probably associated with the impacts of global warming. The underlying question is what the EOF2 mode of the tropical Pacific would be without global warming. Using the CMIP5 preindustrial scenario to exclude the influence of global warming, we find that the EOF1 mode of the tropical Pacific SSTA represents ENSO and that the EOF2 mode is not EM. According to the lead–lag correlation between the ENSO and EOF2 modes, the linkage between these two modes is as follows: …El Niño → EOF2 → La Niña → –EOF2 → El Niño…. By analyzing the evolution of sea surface temperature, surface wind, and subsurface ocean temperature anomalies, we find the mechanism linking the ENSO and EOF2 modes is the air–sea interaction associated with the ENSO cycle. This result suggests that the EOF2 mode represents an aspect of ENSO evolution under preindustrial conditions. Therefore, this study further indicates that the EM is probably due to the influence of global warming.
The cold tongue mode (CTM), which represents the out-of-phase relationship in sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) variability between the Pacific cold tongue region and elsewhere in the tropical Pacific, shows a long-term cooling trend in the eastern equatorial Pacific. In this study, we investigate how well the CTM is reproduced in historical simulations generated by the 20 models considered in Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Qualitatively, all 20 models roughly capture the cooling SSTA associated with the CTM. However, a quantitative assessment (i.e., Taylor diagrams and the ratio of the trend between the simulations and observations) shows that only five of these 20 models (i.e., CESM1-CAM5, CMCC-CM, FGOALS-g2, IPSL-CM5B-LR, and NorESM1-M) can reproduce with useful accuracy the spatial pattern and long-term trend of the CTM. We find that these five models generally simulate the main ocean dynamical process associated with the CTM. That is, these models adequately capture the long-term cooling trend in the vertical advection of the anomalous temperature by the mean upwelling. We conclude that the performance of these CMIP5 models, with respect to simulations of the long-term cooling trend associated with the vertical advection, and the related long-term decreasing trend of the vertical gradient of the oceanic temperature anomaly, can play an important role in successful reproduction of the CTM.