Early Pliocene (pre–Ice Age) El Niño–like global climate: Which El Niño?

Early Pliocene (pre–Ice Age) El Niño–like global climate: Which El Niño?,10.1130/GES00103.1,Geosphere,Peter Molnar,Mark A. Cane

Early Pliocene (pre–Ice Age) El Niño–like global climate: Which El Niño?   (Citations: 8)
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Paleoceanographic data from sites near the equator in the eastern and western Pacifi c Ocean show that sea-surface temperatures, and apparently also the depth and tempera- ture distribution in the thermocline, have changed markedly over the past ~4 m.y., from those resembling an El Niño state before ice sheets formed in the Northern Hemisphere to the present-day marked contrast between the eastern and western tropical Pacifi c. In addition, differences between late Miocene to early Pliocene (pre-Ice Age) paleoclimates and present-day average climates, particu- larly in the Western Hemisphere, resemble those associated with teleconnections from El Niño events, consistent with the image of a permanent El Niño state. Agreement is imper- fect in that many differences between early Pliocene and present-day climates of parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia do not resemble the anomalies associated with canonical El Niño teleconnections. The teleconnections associated with the largest El Niño event in the past 100 yr, that in 1997-1998, do, how- ever, reveal similar patterns of warming and the same sense, if not magnitude, of precipita- tion anomalies shown by differences between late Miocene-early Pliocene paleoclimates and present-day mean climates in these regions. If less consistent than those for the 1997-1998 event, temperature and precipi- tation anomalies correlated with the Pacifi c Decadal Oscillation also mimic many differ- ences between early Pliocene and present-day climates. These similarities suggest that the sea-surface temperature distribution in the Pacifi c Ocean before Ice Age time resembled most that of the 1997-1998 El Niño, with the warmest region extending into the eastern- most Pacifi c Ocean, not near the dateline as occurs in most El Niño events. This inference is consistent with equatorial Pacifi c proxy data indicating that at most a small east-west gradient in sea-surface temperature seems to have existed along the equator in late Mio- cene to early Pliocene time. Accordingly, such a difference in sea-surface temperatures may account for the large global differences in cli- mate that characterized the earth before ice sheets became frequent visitors to the North- ern Hemisphere.
Journal: Geosphere , vol. 3, no. 5, 2007
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