EGU23-10801, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Causes and Consequences of the Prolonged 2020-2023 La Niña 

Michael J. McPhaden1, Nahid Hasan2, and Yoshimitsu Chikamoto2
Michael J. McPhaden et al.
  • 1NOAA/PMEL, Seattle, United States of America (
  • 2Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States of America

The tropical Pacific has witnessed three successive years of unusually cold sea surface temperatures, with peak anomalies in late 2020, 2021 and 2022.  These conditions represent the first "triple dip" La Niña of the 21st century with major climatic impacts felt around the world.  Three year La Niña events are rare but not unprecedented; similar events occurred in 1998-2001 and in 1973-76.  A leading hypothesis for multi-year La Niñas is that they occur on the rebound from preceding extreme El Niños which, through recharge oscillator dynamics, drain the equatorial band of upper ocean heat content leaving a large heat deficit that takes multiple years to recover. The current multi-year La Niña does not conform to this scenario--antecedent conditions in the tropical Pacific in 2019 were characterized by a borderline El Niño that did not lead to a large upper ocean heat content discharge. What caused the this La Niña is thus a topic of considerable interest.  In this presentation we hypothesize that tropical inter-basin interactions were instrumental in initiating and prolonging the event. In particular, we suggest that the event was triggered from the Indian Ocean by a record Indian Ocean Dipole in late 2019, then boosted in 2021 by unusually warm conditions in the tropical Atlantic involving the strongest Atlantic Niño since the 1970s. Whether climate change may have played a role in these developments will be discussed.

How to cite: McPhaden, M. J., Hasan, N., and Chikamoto, Y.: Causes and Consequences of the Prolonged 2020-2023 La Niña , EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10801,, 2023.