EGU23-102, updated on 22 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Inferring Causal Structures to Model and Predict ENSO and Its Effect on Asian Summer Monsoon

Shan He1,2, Song Yang1,2, and Dake Chen1,2,3
Shan He et al.
  • 1Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai, China
  • 2Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China
  • 3Second Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Natural Resources, Hangzhou, China

Large-scale climate variability is analysed, modelled, and predicted mainly based on general circulation models and low-dimensional association analysis. The models’ equational basis makes it difficult to produce mathematical analysis results and clear interpretations, whereas the association analysis cannot establish causation sufficiently to make invariant predictions. However, the macroscale causal structures of the climate system may accomplish the tasks of analysis, modelling, and prediction according to the concepts of causal emergence and causal prediction’s invariance.

Under the assumptions of no unobserved confounders and linear Gaussian models, we examine whether the macroscale causal structures of the climate system can be inferred not only to model but also to predict the large-scale climate variability. Specifically, first, we obtain the causal structures of the macroscale air-sea interactions of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which are interpretable in terms of physics. The structural causal models constructed accordingly can model the ENSO diversity realistically and predict the ENSO variability. Second, this study identifies the joint effect of ENSO and three other winter climate phenomena on the interannual variability in the East Asian summer monsoon. Using regression, these causal precursors can predict the monsoon one season ahead, outperforming association-based empirical models and several climate models. Third, we introduce a framework that infers ENSO’s air-sea interactions from high-dimensional data sets. The framework is based on aggregating the causal discovery results of bootstrap samples to improve high-dimensional variable selection. It is also based on spatial-dimension reduction to allow of clear interpretations at the macroscale.

While further integration with nonlinear non-Gaussian models will be necessary to establish the full benefits of inferring causal structures as a standard practice in research and operational predictions, our study may offer a route to providing concise explanations of the climate system and reaching accurate invariant predictions.

How to cite: He, S., Yang, S., and Chen, D.: Inferring Causal Structures to Model and Predict ENSO and Its Effect on Asian Summer Monsoon, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-102,, 2023.