Large-Scale Reductions in Terrestrial Carbon Uptake Following Central Pacific El Niño

Matthew P. Dannenberg, William K. Smith, Yulong Zhang, Conghe Song, Deborah N. Huntzinger, David J.P. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) affects global climate and ecosystems, but a recent shift toward more frequent central Pacific (CP) El Niño events could alter these relationships. Here, we show strong responses of the terrestrial carbon cycle to CP ENSO, exceeding even those to canonical eastern Pacific (EP) ENSO. Annual GPP of both global tropical forests and semiarid ecosystems were reduced by ∼0.3–0.5 Pg C yr−1 K−1 increase in CP sea surface temperatures (SSTs), which also reduced net ecosystem production of key tropical and semiarid regions like the Amazon and Australia, but with smaller (and generally not significant) responses to EP SSTs. Given these large negative responses of ecosystem production to CP SSTs, our results suggest that a recent shift toward CP-dominated ENSO events could further alter Earth's terrestrial carbon cycle, especially when coupled with possible increases in ENSO amplitude with continued warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL092367
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021


  • El Niño-southern oscillation
  • carbon cycle
  • primary production
  • semiarid ecosystems
  • tropical forests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Large-Scale Reductions in Terrestrial Carbon Uptake Following Central Pacific El Niño'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this