The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) represents the largest source of year-to-year global climate variability. While Earth system models suggest a range of possible shifts in ENSO properties under continued greenhouse gas forcing, many centuries of preindustrial climate data are required to detect a potential shift in the properties of recent ENSO extremes. Here we reconstruct the strength of ENSO variations over the last 7,000 years with a new ensemble of fossil coral oxygen isotope records from the Line Islands, located in the central equatorial Pacific. The corals document a significant decrease in ENSO variance of ~20% from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, coinciding with changes in spring/fall precessional insolation. We find that ENSO variability over the last five decades is ~25% stronger than during the preindustrial. Our results provide empirical support for recent climate model projections showing an intensification of ENSO extremes under greenhouse forcing.
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- El Niño–Southern Oscillation
- Holocene climate change
- anthropogenic climate change
- coral paleoclimate