El Nino modulations over the past seven centuries

Citation:
Li, JB, Xie SP, Cook ER, Morales MS, Christie DA, Johnson NC, Chen FH, D'Arrigo R, Fowler AM, Gou XH, Fang KY.  2013.  El Nino modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change. 3:822-826.

Date Published:

9/2013

Keywords:

climate, enso, interdecadal modulation, millennium, ocean, oscillation, signal, temperatures, tropical pacific, variability

Abstract:

Predicting how the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will change with global warming is of enormous importance to society(1-4). ENSO exhibits considerable natural variability at interdecadal-centennial timescales(5). Instrumental records are too short to determine whether ENSO has changed(6) and existing reconstructions are often developed without adequate tropical records. Here we present a seven-century-long ENSO reconstruction based on 2,222 tree-ring chronologies from both the tropics and mid-latitudes in both hemispheres. The inclusion of tropical records enables us to achieve unprecedented accuracy, as attested by high correlations with equatorial Pacific corals(7,8) and coherent modulation of global teleconnections that are consistent with an independent Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction(9). Our data indicate that ENSO activity in the late twentieth century was anomalously high over the past seven centuries, suggestive of a response to continuing global warming. Climate models disagree on the ENSO response to global warming(3,4), suggesting that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations. Illustrating the radiative effect, our reconstruction reveals a robust ENSO response to large tropical eruptions, with anomalous cooling in the east-central tropical Pacific in the year of eruption, followed by anomalous warming one year after. Our observations provide crucial constraints for improving climate models and their future projections.

Notes:

n/a

Website

DOI:

10.1038/nclimate1936