Teleconnections in a warmer climate: The pliocene perspective

Sonali P. Shukla, Mark A. Chandler, David Rind, Linda E. Sohl, Jeff Jonas, Jean Lerner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Migrations toward altered sea surface temperature (SST) patterns in the Indo-Pacific region are present in the recent observational record and in future global warming projections. These SSTs are in the form of "permanent" El Niño-like (herein termed "El Padre") and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)-like patterns. The Early Pliocene Warm Period, which bears similarity to future warming projections, may have also exhibited these Indo-Pacific SST patterns, as suggested by regional terrestrial paleo-climatic data and general circulation model studies. The ability to corroborate this assessment with paleo-data reconstructions is an advantage of the warm Pliocene period that is not afforded by future warming scenarios. Thus, the Pliocene period provides us with a warm-climate perspective and test bed for understanding potential changes to future atmospheric interactions given these altered SST states. This study specifically assesses how atmospheric teleconnections from El Padre/IOD SST patterns are generated and propagate to create the regional climate signals of the Pliocene period, as these signals may be representative of future regional climatic changes as well. To do this, we construct a holistic diagnostic rubric that allows us to examine atmospheric teleconnections, both energetically and dynamically, as produced by a general circulation model. We incorporate KE′, a diagnostic adapted from the eddy kinetic energy generation field, to assess the available energy transferred to these teleconnections. Using this methodology, we found that relative to our Modern Control experiments, weaker atmospheric teleconnections prevail under warm Pliocene conditions, although pathways of propagation still appear directed toward the southwestern United States from our tropical Pacific sector forcing. Propagation directly emanating from the Indian Ocean forcing sector appears to be largely blocked, although indirect teleconnective pathways appear traversing the Asian continent toward the North Pacific. The changes in the atmospheric circulation of Indian Ocean region in response to the underlying specified SST forcing (and indicated by Pliocene paleo-data) may have a host of implications for energy transfer out of and into the region, including interactions with the Asian jet stream and changes to the seasonal monsoon cycle. These interactions warrant further study in both past and future warm climate scenarios.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1869-1887
    Number of pages19
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number9-10
    StatePublished - Nov 2011


    • El Niño
    • El Padre
    • Indian Ocean dipole
    • Pliocene
    • Teleconnections

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Atmospheric Science


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