Since the 1970s it has been recognised that Southern Hemisphere samples have a lower radiocarbon content than contemporaneous material in the Northern Hemisphere. This interhemispheric radiocarbon offset has traditionally been considered to be the result of a greater surface area in the southern ocean and high-latitude deepwater formation. This is despite the fact that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is known to play a significant role in controlling the interannual variability of atmospheric carbon dioxide by changing the flux of ‘old’ CO 2 from the tropical Pacific. Here we demonstrate that over the past millennium, the Southern Hemisphere radiocarbon offset is characterised by a pervasive 80-yr cycle with a step shift in mean values coinciding with the transition from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age. The observed changes suggest an ENSO-like role in influencing the interhemispheric radiocarbon difference, most probably modulated by the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, and supports a tropical role in forcing centennial-scale global climate change.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.