The Indonesian Throughflow: Oceanographic Responses to Holocene Changes in the Mean Pacific State

Publication Status is "Submitted" Or "In Press: 
LDEO Publication: 
Publication Type: 
Year of Publication: 
Journal Title: 
American Geophysical Union
Tertiary Title: 
EOS Transactions

The Indonesian Throughflow (ITF), which transfers upper ocean waters from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, plays an essential role in global ocean circulation and tropical climate regulation. The flow and mixing regimes of the ITF are affected by changes in temperature, winds and upwelling caused by the Asian Monsoon/Intertropical Convergence Zone (AM/ITCZ) and interannual variations in El Niño (EN). Because the ITF is located in the Western Pacific Warm Pool, an area from which the atmosphere derives a large portion of its heat and water budget, changes in the ITF have the potential to perturb atmospheric circulation globally. Despite the importance of this region to global climate, changes in the ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon affecting the ITF are still poorly understood. Our study used organic geochemical proxies for upwelling in the Makassar Strait to investigate Holocene oceanographic changes in the ITF in response to EN and the AM/ITCZ. A core-top biomarker survey was performed on multi-core samples from the Makassar Strait and surrounding areas. Concentrations of cholesterol (an indicator of integrated primary productivity) were determined by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and were then compared with maps of regional July-August SST and determined to accurately reflect regional upwelling. Based on the findings of the core-top survey, a down-core biomarker record was generated from core BJ8-03-70 GGC taken from the West Sulawesi Margin in the Eastern Makassar Strait, an area that experiences seasonal upwelling associated with the boreal summer Asian monsoon. Cholesterol data show a trend towards increasing concentrations (upwelling or thermocline shoaling) in the late Holocene with a considerable increase approximately 6,000 years before present. Additionally, upwelling intensity appears to show more centennial-millennial variability during the late Holocene. Evidence that the summer monsoon has decreased in strength over the course of the Holocene (e.g. Wang et al., 2005) suggests that the increase in cholesterol is not a response to an increase in monsoon-driven upwelling. Because a shallower thermocline is associated with weak trade winds (El Niño-like conditions in the modern ocean), we interpret these results to represent a mid Holocene transition to a more El Niño-like mean Pacific state. This interpretation is consistent with previous evidence (Moy et al., 2002 and Conroy et al., 2008, yet the timing and reason for this transition is not well constrained. Further work should seek to develop a higher-resolution, multi-proxy dataset to explore and explain this change.