El Niño/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium

Fossil coral heads, Palmyra Island.
Fossil coral heads, Channel site, Palmyra Island
El Niño/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium
Nature
Vol. 424, No. 6946, pp. 271-276 (17 July 2003)
doi:10.1038/nature01779


Kim M. Cobb1,3, Christopher D. Charles1,
Hai Cheng2 & R. Lawrence Edwards2

1 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093
2 Minnesota Isotope Laboratory, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455
3 Present address: California Institute of Technology, MC 100-23, Pasadena, CA 91125.

ABSTRACT:
Any assessment of future climate change requires knowledge of the full range of natural variability in the El Niño/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.

DATA:
Download the data from this study:
Palmyra fossil coral d 18O data (text format)

Data in Matlab format:
Palmyra Island fossil coral d 18O Data, Matlab format, Even, Offset
Palmyra Island fossil coral d 18O Data, Matlab format, Raw, Offset
Palmyra Island fossil coral d 18O Data, Matlab format, Raw, No Offset
For details on Matlab files, see description section of Palmyra Island fossil coral Data file.

To read or view the full study, please visit the Nature website.
It was published in Nature Vol. 424, No. 6946, pp. 271-276 (17 July 2003). doi:10.1038/nature01779

The research was funded by NOAA (to CDC) and NSF (to RLE). KMC was supported by an NSF Graduate Fellowship. Financial and logistical support during two field excursions to Palmyra was provided by Khaled bin Sultan Living Ocean Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.


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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
17 July 2003