Science 3 min read

New Study Reveals Record of El Niño Events in the Past 400 Years

Coral Cores | PublicDomainImages / Pixabay

Coral Cores | PublicDomainImages / Pixabay

Australian researchers just achieved something impossible. The team managed to gather data of all El Niño events over the last four centuries.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the team described an innovative approach using cores drilled from corals to produce the world’s first-ever record of El Niño happenings in the last 400 years.

Since El Niños cause extreme changes in weather conditions across the globe, particularly in South East Asia and Australia, the information from the record gathered by the Australian researchers can be used to better understand this weather phenomenon.

Dr. Mandy Freund, the lead author of the study, said in a statement:

“We are seeing more El Niños forming in the central Pacific Ocean in recent decades, which is unusual across the past 400 years. There are even some early hints that the much stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños, like those that occurred in 1997/98 and 2015/16 may be growing in intensity.”

400-Year Long Record of El Niño Events

To gather information about El Niño events in the past, Dr. Freund and her team used the cores of corals from the Pacific Ocean. According to researchers, the coral cores have centuries of growth patterns containing isotopes that provide information on the climate changes of the past.

These coral cores had never been used to gather such information until today. The short instrumental record made it difficult for past El Niño research efforts to determine whether decade-long changes were unique or not. Dr. Freund added:

“By understanding the past, we are better equipped to understand the future, especially in the context of climate change.”

Reconstructing El Niño history at a seasonal level was something believed to be impossible because coral records must contain enough information to determine the seasonal changes in the Pacific Ocean.

However, after carefully refining their new technique and using machine learning technology, Dr. Freund and her colleagues were able to find a strong connection between the coral cores and the recorded El Niño events.

Based on the data gathered by the researchers, the number of El Niños formed in the Central Pacific have increased exponentially over the past three decades as compared to all the 30-year periods in the past 400 years.

The Australian researchers spent three years to see the results of their labor and they are now excited to know what other weather mysteries their record will help solve. Dr. Ben Henley, one of the researchers, was quoted as saying:

“Having a better understanding of how different types of El Niños have affected us in the past and present, will mean we are more able to model, predict and plan for future El Niños and their wide-ranging impacts.”

Read More: First Mammal Goes Extinct Due To Climate Change

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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