Letter | Published:

Early twentieth-century warming linked to tropical Pacific wind strength

Nature Geoscience volume 8, pages 117121 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Of the rise in global atmospheric temperature over the past century, nearly 30% occurred between 1910 and 1940 when anthropogenic forcings were relatively weak1. This early warming has been attributed to internal factors, such as natural climate variability in the Atlantic region, and external factors, such as solar variability and greenhouse gas emissions. However, the warming is too large to be explained by external factors alone and it precedes Atlantic warming by over a decade. For the late twentieth century, observations and climate model simulations suggest that Pacific trade winds can modulate global temperatures2,3,4,5,6,7, but instrumental data are scarce in the early twentieth century. Here we present a westerly wind reconstruction (1894–1982) from seasonally resolved measurements of Mn/Ca ratios in a western Pacific coral that tracks interannual to multidecadal Pacific climate variability. We then reconstruct central Pacific temperatures using Sr/Ca ratios in a coral from Jarvis Island, and find that weak trade winds and warm temperatures coincide with rapid global warming from 1910 to 1940. In contrast, winds are stronger and temperatures cooler between 1940 and 1970, when global temperature rise slowed down. We suggest that variations in Pacific wind strength at decadal timescales significantly influence the rate of surface air temperature change.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 8 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  2. 2.

    & An apparent hiatus in global warming? Earth’s Future 1, 19–32 (2013).

  3. 3.

    , , , & Model-based evidence of deep ocean heat uptake during surface temperature hiatus periods. Nature Clim. Change 1, 360–364 (2011).

  4. 4.

    et al. Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus. Nature Clim. Change 4, 222–227 (2014).

  5. 5.

    , & Recent multidecadal strengthening of the Walker circulation across the tropical Pacific. Nature Clim. Change 3, 571–576 (2013).

  6. 6.

    , , , & Externally forced and internally generated decadal climate variability associated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. J. Clim. 26, 7298–7310 (2013).

  7. 7.

    & Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling. Nature 501, 403–407 (2013).

  8. 8.

    & Varying planetary heat sink led to global-warming slowdown and acceleration. Science 345, 897–903 (2014).

  9. 9.

    , , & Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys. 48, RG4004 (2010).

  10. 10.

    et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 10 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  11. 11.

    et al. in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) Ch. 12 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001).

  12. 12.

    et al. in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. D. et al.) 663–745 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

  13. 13.

    & An oscillation in the global climate system of period 65–70 years. Nature 367, 723–726 (1994).

  14. 14.

    & On equatorial Pacific surface wind changes around 1977: NCEP-NCAR reanalysis versus COADS observations. J. Clim. 16, 167–173 (2003).

  15. 15.

    , , , & A chemical indicator of trade wind reversal in corals from the western tropical Pacific. J. Geophys. Res. 97, 12698–12697 (1992).

  16. 16.

    & Determination of lead, cadmium and other trace metals in annually-banded corals. Chem. Geol. 67, 47–62 (1988).

  17. 17.

    et al. Paleochemistry of manganese in corals from the Galapagos Islands. Coral Reefs 10, 91–100 (1991).

  18. 18.

    et al. Evaluation of Mn and Fe in coral skeletons (Porites spp.) as proxies for sediment loading and reconstruction of 50 yrs of land use on Ishigaki Island, Japan. Coral Reefs 33, 363–373 (2014).

  19. 19.

    , & Case analysis of a role of ENSO in regulating the generation of westerly wind bursts in the western equatorial Pacific. J. Geophys. Res. 108, 2002JC001498 (2003).

  20. 20.

    & Tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies, El Niño, and equatorial westerly wind events. J. Clim. 13, 1814–1830 (2000).

  21. 21.

    et al. The twentieth century reanalysis project. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 137, 1–28 (2011).

  22. 22.

    , & Recent variability in the Southern Oscillation: Isotopic results from a Tarawa Atoll coral. Science 260, 1790–1793 (1993).

  23. 23.

    , , & Improvements to NOAA’s historical merged land–ocean surface temperature analysis (1880–2006). J. Clim. 21, 2283–2296 (2008).

  24. 24.

    The response of the coupled tropical ocean-atmosphere to westerly wind bursts. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 128, 1–23 (2002).

  25. 25.

    & Pre- and post-1997/98 westerly wind events and equatorial Pacific cold tongue warming. J. Clim. 22, 568–581 (2009).

  26. 26.

    , & El Niño occurrences over the past four and a half centuries. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 14449–1446 (1987).

  27. 27.

    NOAA’s Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) (NOAA Climate Prediction Center); 

  28. 28.

    et al. Decadal to interdecadal climate variability and predictability and the background of climate change. J. Geophys. Res. 112, D18115 (2007).

  29. 29.

    Rapid analysis of high-precision Sr/Ca ratios in corals and other marine carbonates. Paleoceanography 14, 97–102 (1999).

  30. 30.

    Synoptic settings of westerly wind bursts. J. Geophys. Res. 101, 16997–17019 (1996).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank M. Price, S. Hlohowskyj, S. Lemieux, C. Hollenbeck and S. Sanchez for support in producing Mn/Ca and Sr/Ca data sets, and S. Worley and J. Comeaux for aid in obtaining weather station data. We are grateful for discussions with J. Overpeck, J. L. Russell, W. Beck, P. DiNezio and C. Deser. This research was supported by the NOAA Climate Program Office (awards NA16RC0082 and NA08OAR4310682), the US NSF (awards OCE-9158496 and EaSM2-1243125), The University of Arizona Department of Geosciences, the Philanthropic Education Organization, UK NERC (Grant NER/GR3/12021), and the Regional and Global Climate Modeling Program of the US-DOE Office of Biological & Environmental Research Cooperative Agreement (DE-FC02-97ER62402).

Author information

Author notes

    • Diane M. Thompson

    Present address: National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Diane M. Thompson
    •  & Julia E. Cole
  2. Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Julia E. Cole
  3. Proposal Exponent, Seattle, Washington 98177, USA

    • Glen T. Shen
  4. School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JW, UK

    • Alexander W. Tudhope
  5. Climate & Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA

    • Gerald A. Meehl

Authors

  1. Search for Diane M. Thompson in:

  2. Search for Julia E. Cole in:

  3. Search for Glen T. Shen in:

  4. Search for Alexander W. Tudhope in:

  5. Search for Gerald A. Meehl in:

Contributions

This study was initially conceived by G.T.S. and J.E.C., and Tarawa Mn/Ca time series data were generated by G.T.S. D.M.T. compiled and analysed Mn/Ca calibration data, and performed quantitative and comparative data analyses. A.W.T. conceived the Jarvis study, with D.M.T., J.E.C. and A.W.T. contributing to sampling, Sr/Ca analysis and interpretation. D.M.T., G.A.M. and J.E.C. led the comparisons of instrumental and palaeodata. D.M.T. and J.E.C. wrote the manuscript, and all authors contributed to discussion, interpretation and editing of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Diane M. Thompson.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2321

Further reading

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing