Publications

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2017
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.

2016
Sanchez, SC, Charles CD, Carriquiry JD, Villaescusa JA.  2016.  Two centuries of coherent decadal climate variability across the Pacific North American region. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:9208-9216.   10.1002/2016gl069037   AbstractWebsite

The decadal variability of the Pacific Ocean and North American hydroclimate are subjects of immediate concern for society, yet the length of the instrumental record limits full mechanistic understanding of this variability. Here we introduce a 178year, seasonally resolved coral oxygen isotopic record from Clarion Island (18 degrees N, 115 degrees W), a sampling a subtropical region that is strongly influenced by the decadal-scale fluctuations of the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation and a region that serves as a critical locus for the communication of climate anomalies with the tropics. This Mexican Pacific coral record is highly correlated to coral records from the central tropical Pacific and tree ring records from western North America. Significant changes in the amplitude of oceanic decadal variability in the early nineteenth century are mirrored in the drought reconstructions in western North America. The spatial manifestation of this relationship was relatively invariant, despite notable changes in the climatic mean state.

2013
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.

2003
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.

2001
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.