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Impact of a permanent El Niño (El Padre) and Indian Ocean Dipole in warm Pliocene climates

December 31, 2008

 Pliocene sea surface temperature data, as well as terrestrial precipitation and temperature proxies, indicate warmer than modern conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific and imply permanent El Niño–like conditions with impacts similar to those of the 1997/1998 El Niño event. Here we use a general circulation model to examine the global-scale effects that result from imposing warm tropical sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in both modern and Pliocene simulations. Observed SSTs from the 1997/1998 El Niño event were used for the anomalies and incorporate Pacific warming as well as a prominent Indian Ocean Dipole event. Both the permanent El Niño (also called El Padre) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions are necessary to reproduce temperature and precipitation patterns consistent with the global distribution of Pliocene proxy data. These patterns may result from the poleward propagation of planetary waves from the strong convection centers associated with the El Niño and IOD.