South China Sea hydrological changes and Pacific Walker Circulation variations over the last millennium. Academic Article uri icon


  • The relative importance of north-south migrations of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) versus El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation and its associated Pacific Walker Circulation (PWC) variability for past hydrological change in the western tropical Pacific is unclear. Here we show that north-south ITCZ migration was not the only mechanism of tropical Pacific hydrologic variability during the last millennium, and that PWC variability profoundly influenced tropical Pacific hydrology. We present hydrological reconstructions from Cattle Pond, Dongdao Island of the South China Sea, where multi-decadal rainfall and downcore grain size variations are correlated to the Southern Oscillation Index during the instrumental era. Our downcore grain size reconstructions indicate that this site received less precipitation during relatively warm periods, AD 1000-1400 and AD 1850-2000, compared with the cool period (AD 1400-1850). Including our new reconstructions in a synthesis of tropical Pacific records results in a spatial pattern of hydrologic variability that implicates the PWC.

publication date

  • 2011