Research Article

Super ENSO and Global Climate Oscillations at Millennial Time Scales

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Science  12 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5579, pp. 222-226
DOI: 10.1126/science.1071627

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The late Pleistocene history of seawater temperature and salinity variability in the western tropical Pacific warm pool is reconstructed from oxygen isotope (δ18O) and magnesium/calcium composition of planktonic foraminifera. Differentiating the calcite δ18O record into components of temperature and local water δ18O reveals a dominant salinity signal that varied in accord with Dansgaard/Oeschger cycles over Greenland. Salinities were higher at times of high-latitude cooling and were lower during interstadials. The pattern and magnitude of the salinity variations imply shifts in the tropical Pacific ocean/atmosphere system analogous to modern El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño conditions correlate with stadials at high latitudes, whereas La Niña conditions correlate with interstadials. Millennial-scale shifts in atmospheric convection away from the western tropical Pacific may explain many paleo-observations, including lower atmospheric CO2, N2O, and CH4 during stadials and patterns of extratropical ocean variability that have tropical source functions that are negatively correlated with El Niño.

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