Publications

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Journal Article
Cobb, KM, Charles CD, Hunter DE.  2001.  A central tropical Pacific coral demonstrates Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic decadal climate connections. Geophysical Research Letters. 28:2209-2212.   10.1029/2001gl012919   AbstractWebsite

While instrumental and proxy-based climate records describe significant decadal-scale climate variability throughout the tropical Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, the processes responsible for these variations and their interactions are not readily apparent from the observations. A new 112-yr coral-based sea surface temperature (SST) reconstruction from Palmyra Island in the central tropical Pacific (CTP) exhibits strong decadal variability with an amplitude of roughly 0.3 degreesC. A 12-13yr-period signal in this coral record is highly coherent with long equatorial Atlantic and Indian Ocean climate records, implying a unified phenomenon. The Atlantic pattern suggests that it may fall under direct influence of anomalous SST in the CTP, as it does over interannual timescales, while the Indian Ocean pattern exhibits maximum response during the switch between warm/cold states in the tropical Pacific. The results demonstrate that the CTP has played a significant role in determining the expression of global decadal climate variability over the twentieth century.

Kanfoush, SL, Hodell DA, Charles CD, Janecek TR, Rack FR.  2002.  Comparison of ice-rafted debris and physical properties in ODP Site 1094 (South Atlantic) with the Vostok ice core over the last four climatic cycles. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology. 182:329-349.   10.1016/s0031-0182(01)00502-8   AbstractWebsite

Visual counts of ice-grafted debris (IRD), foraminifera, and radiolaria were made for similar to1500 samples in Site 1094 spanning the last four climatic cycles (marine isotope stages 1-11). Most, but not all, of the IRD variability is captured by whole-core physical properties including magnetic susceptibility and gamma-ray attenuation bulk density. Glacial periods are marked by high IRD abundance and millennial-scale variability, which may reflect instability of ice shelves in the Weddell Sea region. Each interglacial period exhibits low IRD and high foraminiferal abundance during the early part of the interglacial, indicating relatively warm sea-surface temperatures and reduced influence of sea ice. IRD increases and foraminiferal abundances decrease during the latter part of each interglacial, indicating a return to more glacial-like conditions. Glacial terminations I and V are each characterized by a step-wise reduction in ice-rafting punctuated by a brief pulse in IRD delivery and reversal in delta(18)O. The coarse fraction of the sediment is dominated by ash and radiolaria, and the relative abundance of these components is remarkably similar to the concentration of Na+ in Vostok. Each of these variables is believed to be controlled mainly by sea-ice cover, thereby providing a means for sediment-ice core correlation. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Cobb, KM, Charles CD, Cheng H, Edwards RL.  2003.  El Nino/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium. Nature. 424:271-276.   10.1038/nature01779   AbstractWebsite

Any assessment of future climate change requires knowledge of the full range of natural variability in the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. Here we splice together fossil-coral oxygen isotopic records from Palmyra Island in the tropical Pacific Ocean to provide 30-150-year windows of tropical Pacific climate variability within the last 1,100 years. The records indicate mean climate conditions in the central tropical Pacific ranging from relatively cool and dry during the tenth century to increasingly warmer and wetter climate in the twentieth century. But the corals also document a broad range of ENSO behaviour that correlates poorly with these estimates of mean climate. The most intense ENSO activity within the reconstruction occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. Taken together, the coral data imply that the majority of ENSO variability over the last millennium may have arisen from dynamics internal to the ENSO system itself.

Fairbanks, RG, Evans MN, Rubenstone JL, Mortlock RA, Broad K, Moore MD, Charles CD.  1997.  Evaluating climate indices and their geochemical proxies measured in corals. Coral Reefs. 16:S93-S100.   10.1007/s003380050245   AbstractWebsite

Standard ocean/climate indices such as the Nino-3 sea surface temperature (SST) index, based on sparse instrumental data, and atmospheric indices such as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), may now be substituted and/or extended by coral-based indices. Several elements or their isotopes are incorporated in coral aragonitic skeletons at predictable concentrations, some of which are temperature or salinity dependent. The availability of century-old corals, at key oceanographic sites, permits the establishment of a network of proxy climate indices.

Cobb, KM, Westphal N, Sayani HR, Watson JT, Di Lorenzo E, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Charles CD.  2013.  Highly variable El Nino-Southern Oscillation throughout the Holocene. Science. 339:67-70.   10.1126/science.1228246   AbstractWebsite

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drives large changes in global climate patterns from year to year, yet its sensitivity to continued anthropogenic greenhouse forcing is uncertain. We analyzed fossil coral reconstructions of ENSO spanning the past 7000 years from the Northern Line Islands, located in the center of action for ENSO. The corals document highly variable ENSO activity, with no evidence for a systematic trend in ENSO variance, which is contrary to some models that exhibit a response to insolation forcing over this same period. Twentieth-century ENSO variance is significantly higher than average fossil coral ENSO variance but is not unprecedented. Our results suggest that forced changes in ENSO, whether natural or anthropogenic, may be difficult to detect against a background of large internal variability.

Charles, CD, Hunter DE, Fairbanks RG.  1997.  Interaction between the ENSO and the Asian monsoon in a coral record of tropical climate. Science. 277:925-928.   10.1126/science.277.5328.925   AbstractWebsite

The oxygen isotopic composition of a banded coral from the western equatorial Indian Ocean provides a 150-year-long history of the relation between the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and the Asian monsoon. Interannual cycles in the coral time series were found to correlate with Pacific coral and instrumental climate records, suggesting a consistent linkage across ocean basins, despite the changing frequency and amplitude of the ENSO. However, decadal variability that is characteristic of the monsoon system also dominates the coral record, which implies important interactions between tropical and midlatitude climate variability. One prominent manifestation of this interaction is the strong amplitude modulation of the quasi-biennial cycle.

Lynch-Stieglitz, J, Curry WB, Oppo DW, Ninneman US, Charles CD, Munson J.  2006.  Meridional overturning circulation in the South Atlantic at the last glacial maximum. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 7   10.1029/2005gc001226   AbstractWebsite

The geostrophic shear associated with the meridional overturning circulation is reflected in the difference in density between the eastern and western margins of the ocean basin. Here we examine how the density difference across 30 degrees S in the upper 2 km of the Atlantic Ocean ( and thus the magnitude of the shear associated with the overturning circulation) has changed between the last glacial maximum and the present. We use oxygen isotope measurements on benthic foraminifera to reconstruct density. Today, the density in upper and intermediate waters along the eastern margin in the South Atlantic is greater than along the western margin, reflecting the vertical shear associated with the northward flow of surface and intermediate waters and the southward flowing North Atlantic Deep Waters below. The greater density along the eastern margin is reflected in the higher delta(18)O values for surface sediment benthic foraminifera than those found on the western margin for the upper 2 km. For the last glacial maximum the available data indicate that the eastern margin foraminifera had similar delta(18)O to those on the western margin between 1 and 2 km and that the gradient was reversed relative to today with the higher delta(18)O values in the western margin benthic foraminifera above 1 km. If this reversal in benthic foraminifera delta(18)O gradient reflects a reversal in seawater density gradient, these data are not consistent with a vigorous but shallower overturning cell in which surface waters entering the Atlantic basin are balanced by the southward export of Glacial North Atlantic Intermediate Water.

Linsley, BK, Wu HC, Rixen T, Charles CD, Gordon AL, Moore MD.  2017.  SPCZ zonal events and downstream influence on surface ocean conditions in the Indonesian Throughflow region. Geophysical Research Letters. 44:293-303.   10.1002/2016gl070985   AbstractWebsite

Seasonal surface freshening of the Makassar Strait, the main conduit of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF), is a key factor controlling the ITF. Here we present a 262year reconstruction of seasonal sea-surface-salinity variability from 1742 to 2004 Common Era by using coral O-18 records from the central Makassar Strait. Our record reveals persistent seasonal freshening and also years with significant truncations of seasonal freshening that correlate exactly with South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) zonal events >4000km to the east. During these events, the SPCZ dramatically rotates similar to 15 degrees north to near the equator and stronger westward flowing South Pacific boundary currents force higher-salinity water through the Makassar Strait in February-May halting the normal seasonal freshening in the strait. By these teleconnections, our Makassar coral O-18 series provides the first record of the recurrence interval of these zonal SPCZ events and demonstrates that they have occurred on a semiregular basis since the mid-1700s.