Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Was El Niño unaffected by the Little Ice Age ?

27.03.2002


An extremely intense El Niño event in 1983 prompted an international surveillance programme, involving the deployment of moored or drift measurement buoys and observation satellites. This research effort is proving to be fruitful. The data obtained provide a key to understanding how the two components of the now-famous two-phase system El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) -El Niño and its reverse counterpart La Niña- are generated. Forecasting models for three months in advance are quite reliable. However, the knowledge acquired comes from observations which are limited in time and therefore cannot reveal any longer-term variability in the Pacific climate. This is particularly so for ENSO prediction as its strength and phasing can vary widely over a given century or from one century to another. It is therefore difficult now to determine the impact of the present-day global warming on El Niño.



With the aim of improving climate models, research teams are studying periods of the past during which the climate was different from that of the present day. They are investigating especially the extent to which the ENSO phenomenon occurred at the time with the same frequency and intensity. IRD scientists from the Nouméa centre, in conjunction with the College of Marine Science (University of South Florida), have studied a colony of Porites (massive corals) which has been building up since the mid XVIIth century. This colony yields pure signals, by way of trace element analysis involving coupled Sr/Ca and U/Ca ratio determination, on the changes in the sea surface temperature (SST) that have occurred over 350 years.
The team focused its attention on a particularly cold period (1701-1761), which occurred in the middle of the Little Ice Age (1400 to 1850 A.D.). At this time, temperatures in temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere were between 1 and 2 °C lower than average figures recorded at present. Drill-core coral samples taken from near the Amédée Lighthouse on the South-West side of New Caledonia show that the Little Ice Age also prevailed in the tropical South-West Pacific, with an average cooling of around 1°C. Was El Niño, which now manifests itself in this area of the Pacific every two to seven years by a fall in SSTs (by 0.5 to 1.5°C), reinforced by this generalized cooling? The reconstitution of a composite monthly SST record over the first 60 years of the XVIIIth century has led the researchers to some surprising observations. El Niño’s behaviour then was similar to what it is now. In spite of a decrease in average temperatures, neither the strength nor the frequency of El Niño therefore appears to have been affected, even during the very coldest period.

The New Caledonia corals have, however, recorded a much more pronounced interdecadal oscillation (a period of 15 to 20 years) than is now observed : in 1720, 1730 and 1748 in particular decreases in annual average SSTs exceeded 1°C. This is an important result. The scientific community is now considering if there is interaction between El Niño (which recurs every 2 to 7 years) and lower-frequency climatic phenomena (recurrence every 10 to 60 years). The Amédée Lighthouse corals may not have shed new light on that, but they have proved they can yield useful information on these low-frequency cycles over time.



1. Massive corals are considered as the best memory of climatic variability of the tropical oceans. The coral skeleton incorporates a continual record, sometimes covering several centuries, of temperature, salinity and sunshine fluctuations. The fast formation rate and the existence of seasonal growth bands make them an ideal material for studying recent palaeoclimatology in relation with El Niño.
2. A 1°C decrease in average annual temperatures.

Marie-Lise Sabrie | alphagalileo
Further information:
http://www.ird.fr

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

nachricht How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>