Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Holocene El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability reflected in subtropical Australian precipitation

Barr, C.; Tibby, J.; Leng, M.J.; Tyler, J.J.; Henderson, A.C.G.; Overpeck, J.T.; Simpson, G.L.; Cole, J.E.; Phipps, S.J.; Marshall, J.C.; McGregor, G.B.; Hua, Q.; McRobie, F.H.

Holocene El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability reflected in subtropical Australian precipitation Thumbnail


C. Barr

J. Tibby

J.J. Tyler

A.C.G. Henderson

J.T. Overpeck

G.L. Simpson

J.E. Cole

S.J. Phipps

J.C. Marshall

G.B. McGregor

Q. Hua

F.H. McRobie


The La Niña and El Niño phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have major impacts on regional rainfall patterns around the globe, with substantial environmental, societal and economic implications. Long-term perspectives on ENSO behaviour, under changing background conditions, are essential to anticipating how ENSO phases may respond under future climate scenarios. Here, we derive a 7700-year, quantitative precipitation record using carbon isotope ratios from a single species of leaf preserved in lake sediments from subtropical eastern Australia. We find a generally wet (more La Niña-like) mid-Holocene that shifted towards drier and more variable climates after 3200 cal. yr BP, primarily driven by increasing frequency and strength of the El Niño phase. Climate model simulations implicate a progressive orbitally-driven weakening of the Pacific Walker Circulation as contributing to this change. At centennial scales, high rainfall characterised the Little Ice Age (~1450–1850 CE) in subtropical eastern Australia, contrasting with oceanic proxies that suggest El Niño-like conditions prevail during this period. Our data provide a new western Pacific perspective on Holocene ENSO variability and highlight the need to address ENSO reconstruction with a geographically diverse network of sites to characterise how both ENSO, and its impacts, vary in a changing climate.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 28, 2018
Online Publication Date Feb 7, 2019
Publication Date Feb 7, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2019
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 1627
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 30 July 2018; Accepted: 28 December 2018; First Online: 7 February 2019; : The authors declare no competing interests.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations