On the variability of ENSO over the past six centuries

Rosanne D'Arrigo*, Edward R. Cook, Rob J. Wilson, Rob Allan, Michael E. Mann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)


The instrumental record is too brief for evaluation of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system and its long-term response to climate forcing. To supplement these data, we use a new reconstruction of December-February Niño-3 sea surface temperatures based on subtropical North American tree-ring records to investigate aspects of ENSO variability over the past six centuries (AD 1408-1978). Spectral analyses reveal that the reconstruction best resolves variability within the "classical" ENSO band of 2-8 years. A low amplitude ENSO epoch in the 17th to 18th centuries broadly coincides with "Little Ice Age" conditions over much of the globe. The detailed behavior shows good agreement with shorter tree-ring reconstructions of ENSO over the past few centuries, but differs at times from other longer coral ENSO records and recent model simulations of past ENSO behavior. We discuss possible reasons for these discrepancies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2005


  • Southern-oscillation
  • Maunder minimum
  • Climate-change
  • Millennium
  • Signal
  • Noise
  • Solar


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