Unraveling forced responses of extreme El Niño variability over the Holocene

Allison E. Lawman, Pedro N. Di Nezio, Judson W. Partin, Sylvia G. Dee, Kaustubh Thirumalai, Terrence M. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Uncertainty surrounding the future response of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability to anthropogenic warming necessitates the study of past ENSO sensitivity to substantial climate forcings over geological history. Here, we focus on the Holocene epoch and show that ENSO amplitude and frequency intensified over this period, driven by an increase in extreme El Niño events. Our study combines new climate model simulations, advances in coral proxy system modeling, and coral proxy data from the central tropical Pacific. Although the model diverges from the observed coral data regarding the exact magnitude of change, both indicate that modern ENSO variance eclipsed paleo-estimates over the Holocene, albeit against the backdrop of wide-ranging natural variability. Toward further constraining paleo-ENSO, our work underscores the need for multimodel investigations of additional Holocene intervals alongside more coral data from periods with larger climate forcing. Our findings implicate extreme El Niño events as an important rectifier of mean ENSO intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabm4313
JournalScience Advances
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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