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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 3 | Copyright
Ocean Sci., 14, 515-524, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 25 Jun 2018

Research article | 25 Jun 2018

Electromagnetic characteristics of ENSO

Johannes Petereit1,2, Jan Saynisch1, Christopher Irrgang1, Tobias Weber1, and Maik Thomas1,2 Johannes Petereit et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Meteorology, Berlin, Germany

Abstract. The motion of electrically conducting sea water through Earth's magnetic field induces secondary electromagnetic fields. Due to its periodicity, the oceanic tidally induced magnetic field is easily distinguishable in magnetic field measurements and therefore detectable. These tidally induced signatures in the electromagnetic fields are also sensitive to changes in oceanic temperature and salinity distributions. We investigate the impact of oceanic heat and salinity changes related to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on oceanic tidally induced magnetic fields. Synthetic hydrographic data containing characteristic ENSO dynamics have been derived from a coupled ocean–atmosphere simulation covering a period of 50 years. The corresponding tidally induced magnetic signals have been calculated with the 3-D induction solver x3dg. By means of the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI), based on sea surface temperature anomalies, and a corresponding Magnetic Niño Index (MaNI), based on anomalies in the oceanic tidally induced magnetic field at sea level, we demonstrate that evidence of developing ENSO events can be found in the oceanic magnetic fields statistically 4 months earlier than in sea surface temperatures. The analysis of the spatio-temporal progression of the oceanic magnetic field anomalies offers a deeper understanding on the underlying oceanic processes and is used to test and validate the initial findings.

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Short summary
The study finds that changes in seawater temperature due to El Niño and La Niña, anomalous warm and cold events, are in principle detectable by means of the oceanic tidally induced magnetic field. Furthermore, subsurface processes in the onset of those anomalous events lead the surface processes by several months. This causes a lead in the oceanic tidally induced magnetic field signals over sea-surface temperature signals.
The study finds that changes in seawater temperature due to El Niño and La Niña, anomalous warm...