Reply to comment by Karnauskas et al. on "equatorial Pacific coral geochemical records show recent weakening of the Walker circulation"

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Paleoceanography, ISSN: 1944-9186, Vol: 30, Issue: 5, Page: 575-582

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Carilli, Jessica E.; McGregor, Helen V.; Gaudry, Jessica J.; Donner, Simon D.; Gagan, Michael K.; Stevenson, Samantha; Wong, Henri; Fink, David
American Geophysical Union (AGU); Wiley-Blackwell
Earth and Planetary Sciences; Medicine and Health Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences
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In our paper describing a new coral record from Butaritari, we hypothesized that comparing the temporal trends in our records to coral records from farther east in the equatorial Pacific may support the evidence for a weakening of a Walker circulation, documented elsewhere in the literature [Power and Smith, 2007; Tokinaga et al., 2012]. Weakening of the Walker circulation is expected under global warming due to an imbalance in the rate of change in different aspects of the hydrological cycle [Vecchi and Soden, 2007]. We thank Karnauskas et al. [2015] for recognizing the value of our Butaritari coral climate reconstruction, and we appreciate their critique of our study. The Karnauskas et al. [2015] analyses strengthen our argument regarding the utility of interisland coral-proxy derived sea surface temperature (SST) gradients as a Walker circulation metric, but we disagree with their interpretation of decadal variability in our records. Here we provide additional analyses, which confirm that our reconstruction [Carilli et al., 2014] shows a long-term weakening of the Walker circulation over 1972-1998. We also document that significant decadal variations in Walker circulation strength, and for particular choices of start and end years over which trends are calculated, are able to show slight Walker strengthening. Overall, we conclude that Walker circulation variations are more nuanced than either our original publication [Carilli et al., 2014] or the subsequent Karnauskas et al. [2015] comment would suggest. Karnauskas et al. [2015] also provide a detailed analysis of Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) activity near the Gilbert Islands and argue that the EUC does not strongly affect Butaritari. Our original publication did not claim to find significant EUC/Butaritari linkages, and we appreciate the diligence of Karnauskas et al. [2015] for ruling this out as a possibility.