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The impact of volcanic forcing on tropical temperatures during the past four centuries


Palaeoclimate records have demonstrated links between high-latitude climate changes and tropical as well as high-latitude volcanic activity1,2,3,4,5. However, little is known about the impact of high-or low-latitude volcanic eruptions on tropical climate, particularly for the period preceding the instrumental record6,7,8,9. Here we use annually resolved temperature-related records from corals, tree rings and ice cores to investigate the relationship between volcanism and low-latitude climate. Over the past 450 years, we find an association between low-latitude volcanic events and lower sea surface temperatures in the tropical oceans. The longest sustained cold period in recent centuries occurred in the early nineteenth century, following the eruption of Tambora and a second, unidentified but presumably tropical1, volcano. We therefore conclude that the tropical ocean–atmosphere system has been sensitive to changes in radiative forcing caused by tropical volcanism over the past several centuries.

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Figure 1: Location map of proxy records.
Figure 2: Forcing and paleoclimatic time series of volcanism.
Figure 3: Superposed epoch analysis.

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This project was financially supported by the National Science Foundation Paleoclimate Program (Grant No. OCE 04-02474). R.W. is financially supported by the European Community under research contract 017008-2 Millennium. A. Tudhope was financially supported by NERC grant GR3/12021. We thank E. Cook (LDEO) for providing data, and all contributors of the data used herein submitted to the NOAA Paleoclimatology program ( Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Contribution No. 7223.

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Authors and Affiliations



R.D. was responsible for reconstruction analyses, providing tree-ring data and interpretation of records and results. R.W. developed reconstruction results and provided interpretation, statistical analyses, figures and tables. A. T. provided coral data and interpretation. R.D., R. W. and A. T. wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rosanne D’Arrigo.

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D’Arrigo, R., Wilson, R. & Tudhope, A. The impact of volcanic forcing on tropical temperatures during the past four centuries. Nature Geosci 2, 51–56 (2009).

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