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The West Pacific Gradient tracks ENSO and zonal Pacific sea surface temperature gradient during the last Millennium

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posted on 2021-12-03, 10:39 authored by J Zinke, SA Browning, A Hoell, ID Goodwin
Small changes in Pacific temperature gradients connected with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influence the Walker Circulation and are related to global climate anomalies. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to develop robust indices of their past behavior. Here, we reconstruct the difference in sea surface temperature between the west and central Pacific during ENSO, coined the West Pacific Gradient (WPG), based on the Last Millennium Paleo Hydrodynamics Data Assimilation. We show that the WPG tracks ENSO variability and strongly co-varies with the zonal gradient in Pacific sea surface temperature. We demonstrate that the WPG strength is related to significant atmospheric circulation and precipitation anomalies during historical El Niño and La Niña events by magnifying or weakening droughts and pluvials across the Indo-Pacific. We show that an extreme negative WPG coupled to a strong zonal Pacific temperature gradient is associated with enhanced megadroughts in North America between 1400 CE and the late sixteenth century. The twentieth century stands out in showing the most extreme swings between positive and negative WPG conditions over the past Millennium. We conclude that the WPG is a robust index together with ENSO indices to reveal past changes in Pacific zonal sea surface temperature gradient variability.

History

Citation

Sci Rep 11, 20395 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-99738-3

Author affiliation

School of Geography, Geology and Environment, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Scientific Reports

Volume

11

Issue

1

Publisher

Nature Publishing Group

issn

2045-2322

eissn

2045-2322

Acceptance date

2021-09-28

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2021-12-03

Language

English

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