New Study: ‘El Niños 10,000 Years Ago As Strong & Frequent As Today’
Date: 09/08/14 Watts Up With That
The planet’s largest and most powerful driver of climate changes from one year to the next, the El Niño Southern Oscillation in the tropical Pacific Ocean, was widely thought to have been weaker in ancient times because of a different configuration of the Earth’s orbit. But scientists analyzing 25-foot piles of ancient shells have found that the El Niños 10,000 years ago were as strong and frequent as the ones we experience today.
The results, from the University of Washington and University of Montpellier, question how well computer models can reproduce historical El Niño cycles, or predict how they could change under future climates. The paper is now online and will appear in an upcoming issue of Science.
“We thought we understood what influences the El Niño mode of climate variation, and we’ve been able to show that we actually don’t understand it very well,” said Julian Sachs, a UW professor of oceanography.
The ancient shellfish feasts also upend a widely held interpretation of past climate.
“Our data contradicts the hypothesis that El Niño activity was very reduced 10,000 years ago, and then slowly increased since then,” said first author Matthieu Carré, who did the research as a UW postdoctoral researcher and now holds a faculty position at the University of Montpellier in France.
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