ENSO Dynamics Workshop 2017

A workshop on ENSO dynamics was held on November 20-21, 2017, at the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.  The workshop was funded and hosted by the ARC Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Climate System Science and the new ARC CoE for Climate Extremes.   It was attended by 25 ENSO researchers and forecasters, the majority of whom are members of the CoE.  We laso had many attendees from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and other instituions including CSIRO, UNSW, Monash, University of Tasmania, Monash and ETH Zurich.

The two-day workshop was filled with animated discussions on how ENSO works and what influences its dynamics and predictability.  Given the strong and often severe impacts of ENSO globally, including Australia, advancing our understanding of ENSO dynamics is a must for improved seasonal climate predictions and future projections.  The idea for the workshop was raised by Dr Harry Hendon of the Bureau of Meteorology during a NESP project meeting last June.  Harry realised the necessity to bring together Australian experts in the field, to sit in one room to discuss the pertinent issues, clarify and formulate a plan on how to address them, and how to enhance collaboration across the extended network of the CoE.

The meeting was timely, as the last time we had an ENSO workshop was 2 years ago in February 2015, when the world was expecting a big El Nino that did not happen.  The El Nino instead materialised in the second half of 2015, and it emerged as a particularly strong one.  The 2015/16 El Nino can be considered as the first extreme El Nino of the 21st Century with interesting characteristics that are distinct to the previous extreme El Nino in 1982 and 1997.

The interesting case of the 2015/16 El Nino initiated the workshop discussions (Agus Santoso, Guomin Wang , Esteban Abellan), followed by an informative talk on the operational forecast of the 2014-2017 ENSO events (Felicity Gamble).  This was then followed by a series of discussions on ENSO predictability (Eun-Pa Lim, Jing-Jia Luo, Sonja Neske), response to greenhouse warming (Dietmar Dommenget, Scott Power, Agus Santoso), and various modelling aspects of ENSO (Harun Rashid, Neil Holbrook, Ryan Holmes, Andrea Taschetto). The first day of the workshop concluded with a lively dinner gathering at a local restaurant in Randwick.

The second day was opened with discussions on mechanisms of decadal variability and ocean heat uptake, as they are linked to ENSO dynamics (Matt England, Shayne McGregor, Ryan Holmes, Maurice Huguenin).   Also relevant to understanding ENSO dynamics is the interplay of ENSO with large-scale modes of variability (Pandora Hope) and impacts on weather (Acacia Peppler), emphasising the importance of ENSO prediction, which was also highlighted in the second day discussion (Hanh Nguyen).  We also covered technical issues on statistical analysis and ways to better capture ENSO variability (Harry Hendon, Arnold Sullivan).  The workshop then proceeded with an entertaining and insightful summary of international workshops, focussing on the ‘ENSO Complexity’ workshop in Busan, South Korea last October.  The participants agreed that the Busan workshop was a great productive meeting resulting in a review paper submitted to the Nature journal.  We discussed how that particular workshop was successful. Our own ENSO workshop was wrapped up with a list of outcomes, recommendations, and future research directions that are being written up as a formal report.

The workshop organisers thank the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science for its support; Vilia Co, Jenny Rislund, Bronwen Smith for their help on logistics, to ensure the workshop ran smoothly; Alvin Stone for setting up and maintaining the workshop website; and certainly all of the participants, presenters, and note takers (Leela Frankcombe, Hanh Nguyen), as well as Tropical Green for their help with catering.

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