The cycle of warming and cooling in the Pacific Ocean, what most call El Niño, may be influenced by climate change, according to research published recently in the journal Science.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered this by taking 17 core samples from fossilized corals and analyzed their oxygen isotopes, finding variations during warmer and cooler periods.
These variations enabled scientists to create a record of El Niño severity going back about 7,000 years, according to researcher Kim Cobb, an associate professor of climate change who spoke to Climate Desk for a new short science video.
To their surprise, core analysis showed that “the 20th century is significantly, statistically stronger in its El Niño Southern Oscillation activity than this long, baseline average,” she explained.
Cobb warned that the link is still tenuous and could yet be disproved as more coral core samples are analyzed, but added that the discovery could be a direct link between the level of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere and phenomena known to be associated with El Niño, like droughts, torrential rains and even human conflicts.
This video was published to YouTube on January 10, 2013.