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Holocene El Niño-Southern Oscillation variability reflected in subtropical Australian precipitation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrew Henderson

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract

The La Niña and El Niño phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have major impacts on regional rainfall patterns around the globe, with substantial environmental, societal and economic implications. Long-term perspectives on ENSO behaviour, under changing background conditions, are essential to anticipating how ENSO phases may respond under future climate scenarios. Here, we derive a 7700-year, quantitative precipitation record using carbon isotope ratios from a single species of leaf preserved in lake sediments from subtropical eastern Australia. We find a generally wet (more La Niña like) mid-Holocene that shifted towards drier and more variable climates after 3200 cal. yr BP, primarily driven by increasing frequency and strength of the El Niño phase. Climate model simulations implicate a progressive orbitally-driven weakening of the Pacific Walker Circulation as contributing to this change. At centennial scales, high rainfall characterised the Little Ice Age (~1450–1850 CE) in subtropical eastern Australia, contrasting with oceanic proxies that suggest El Niño-like conditions prevail during this period. Our data provide a new western Pacific perspective on Holocene ENSO variability and highlight the need to address ENSO reconstruction with a geographically diverse network of sites to characterise how both ENSO, and its impacts, vary in a changing climate.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Barr C, Tibby J, Leng MJ, Tyler JJ, Henderson ACG, Overpeck JT, Simpson GL, Cole JE, Phipps SJ, Marshall JC, McGregor GB, Hua Q, McRobie FH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2019

Volume: 9

Online publication date: 07/02/2019

Acceptance date: 28/12/2018

Date deposited: 07/02/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group

URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-38626-3

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-38626-3

Notes: ReadCube link: https://rdcu.be/blC8V


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