El Niño–Southern Oscillation and internal sea surface temperature variability in the tropical Indian Ocean since 1675

Leupold, Maike; Pfeiffer, Miriam; Watanabe, Takaaki K.; Reuning, Lars; Garbe-Schönberg, Dieter; Shen, Chuan-Chou; Brummer, Geert-Jan A.

The dominant modes of climate variability on interannual timescales in the tropical Indian Ocean are the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole. El Niño events have occurred more frequently during recent decades, and it has been suggested that an asymmetric ENSO teleconnection (warming during El Niño events is stronger than cooling during La Niña events) caused the pronounced warming of the western Indian Ocean. In this study, we test this hypothesis using coral inline-formulaSr∕Ca records from the central Indian Ocean (Chagos Archipelago) to reconstruct past sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in time windows from the mid-Little Ice Age (1675–1716) to the present. Three sub-fossil massive Porites corals were dated to the 17–18th century (one coral) and the 19–20th century (two corals). Their records were compared with a published modern coral inline-formulaSr∕Ca record from the same site. All corals were subsampled at a monthly resolution for inline-formulaSr∕Ca measurements, which were measured using a simultaneous inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES). Wavelet coherence analysis shows that interannual variability in the four coral records is driven by ENSO, suggesting that the ENSO–SST teleconnection in the central Indian Ocean has been stationary since the 17th century. To determine the symmetry of El Niño and La Niña events, we compiled composite records of positive and negative ENSO-driven SST anomaly events. We find similar magnitudes of warm and cold anomalies, indicating a symmetric ENSO response in the tropical Indian Ocean. This suggests that ENSO is not the main driver of central Indian Ocean warming.

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Leupold, Maike / Pfeiffer, Miriam / Watanabe, Takaaki K. / et al: El Niño–Southern Oscillation and internal sea surface temperature variability in the tropical Indian Ocean since 1675. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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