A re-appraisal of the ENSO response to volcanism with paleoclimate data assimilation

Feng Zhu, Julien Emile-Geay, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Gregory J. Hakim, Andrew T. Wittenberg, Mariano S. Morales, Matthew Toohey, Jonathan King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The potential for explosive volcanism to affect the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been debated since the 1980s. Several observational studies, based largely on tree-ring proxies, have since found support for a positive ENSO phase in the year following large eruptions. In contrast, recent coral data from the heart of the tropical Pacific suggest no uniform ENSO response to explosive volcanism over the last millennium. Here we leverage paleoclimate data assimilation to integrate both tree-ring and coral proxies into a reconstruction of ENSO state, and re-appraise this relationship. We find only a weak statistical association between volcanism and ENSO, and identify the selection of volcanic events as a key variable to the conclusion. We discuss the difficulties of conclusively establishing a volcanic influence on ENSO by empirical means, given the myriad factors affecting the response, including the spatiotemporal details of the forcing and ENSO phase preconditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number747
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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