Global climate models (GCMs) predict enhanced warming and nutrient decline across the central tropical Pacific as trade winds weaken with global warming. Concurrent changes in circulation, however, have potential to mitigate these effects for equatorial islands. The implications for densely populated island nations, whose livelihoods depend on ecosystem services, are significant. A unique suite of in situ measurements coupled with state-of-the-art GCM simulations enables us to quantify the mitigation potential of the projected circulation change for three coral reef ecosystems under two future scenarios. Estimated historical trends indicate that over 100% of the large-scale warming to date has been offset locally by changes in circulation, while future simulations predict a warming mitigation effect of only 5-10% depending on the island. The pace and extent to which GCM projections overwhelm historical trends will play a key role in defining the fate of marine ecosystems and island communities across the tropical Pacific.
Karnauskas, Kristopher B; Cohen, Anne L; and Gove, Jamison M, "Mitigation of Coral Reef Warming Across the Central Pacific by the Equatorial Undercurrent: A Past and Future Divide." (2016). Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences Faculty Contributions. 3.