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Reduced El Niño–Southern Oscillation during the Last Glacial Maximum

Ford, Heather Louise; Ravelo, A. Christina; Polissar, Pratigya Jeremy

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major source of global interannual variability, but its response to climate change is uncertain. Paleoclimate records from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) provide insight into ENSO behavior when global boundary conditions (ice sheet extent, atmospheric partial pressure of CO2) were different from those today. In this work, we reconstruct LGM temperature variability at equatorial Pacific sites using measurements of individual planktonic foraminifera shells. A deep equatorial thermocline altered the dynamics in the eastern equatorial cold tongue, resulting in reduced ENSO variability during the LGM compared to the Late Holocene. These results suggest that ENSO was not tied directly to the east-west temperature gradient, as previously suggested. Rather, the thermocline of the eastern equatorial Pacific played a decisive role in the ENSO response to LGM climate.

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
October 2, 2015
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