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Eocene El Niño: Evidence for Robust Tropical Dynamics in the "Hothouse"

Science  07 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5608, pp. 877-881
DOI: 10.1126/science.1078766

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Abstract

Much uncertainty surrounds the interactions between the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and long-term global change. Past periods of extreme global warmth, exemplified by the Eocene (55 to 35 million years ago), provide a good testing ground for theories for this interaction. Here, we compare Eocene coupled climate model simulations with annually resolved variability records preserved in lake sediments. The simulations show Pacific deep-ocean and high-latitude surface warming of ∼10°C but little change in the tropical thermocline structure, atmosphere-ocean dynamics, and ENSO, in agreement with proxies. This result contrasts with theories linking past and future “hothouse” climates with a shift toward a permanent El Niño–like state.

  • * Present address: Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, 1397 Engineering Building, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: huberm{at}purdue.edu

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