Climate Dynamics

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Geochemical evidence from corals for changes in the amplitude and spatial pattern of South Pacific interdecadal climate variability over the last 300 years

  • B. K. LinsleyEmail author
  • G. M. Wellington
  • D. P. Schrag
  • L. Ren
  • M. J. Salinger
  • A. W. Tudhope


In the Pacific Ocean, the coherent pattern of interdecadal variations in sea surface temperature (SST) over the last ∼100 years has been termed the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). To examine past variations in the IPO we have generated time series of Sr/Ca and oxygen isotopes (δ18O) from South Pacific Porites coral colonies growing at Rarotonga (1997 to 1726) and Fiji (1997 to 1780). At both sites skeletal Sr/Ca is highly correlated with instrumental SST at least back to ∼1970 and δ18O appears to reflect both SST and South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) effects on seawater δ18O. Comparison of our results to a New Caledonia coral δ18O record and to indices of interdecadal Pacific climate variability demonstrates that these South Pacific corals have accurately recorded twentieth century variations in the IPO and SPCZ. The coral records also indicate that higher amplitude and more spatially coherent IPO-related variability existed from 1880 to 1950 with notably poor between-site correlations in the mid-1800s. These observations suggest that the spatial IPO pattern in South Pacific SST was significantly more complex and/or poorly defined in the mid-1800s compared to that observed in the twentieth century. Comparison with North Pacific IPO indices also indicates that the degree of cross-hemispheric symmetry of interdecadal oceanographic variability has changed over time with a lower correlation between the North and South Pacific in the mid-1800s. This evidence suggests that the spatial pattern of the IPO at least in the South Pacific has varied over the last 300 years, with a major reorganization occurring after ∼1880 A.D.


Pacific Decadal Oscillation South Pacific Convergence Zone Singular Spectrum Analysis Interdecadal Variability Interdecadal Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Jennifer Caselle and Kenyon B. Mobley for assistance with field sampling and Ethan Goddard and Stephen Howe for analytical assistance. Chris Folland and Jim Renwick generously provided the base map for Fig. 1. Comments from Michael K. Gagan and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript. This research was supported by NSF grants ATM-9901649 and OCE-03/829 and NOAA grant NA96GP0406 to BKL, NSF grant ATM-9619035 and NOAA grant NA96GP0470 to GMW and New Zealand FRST grant C01X0202 to MJS.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. K. Linsley
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. M. Wellington
    • 2
  • D. P. Schrag
    • 3
  • L. Ren
    • 1
  • M. J. Salinger
    • 4
  • A. W. Tudhope
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, ES 351 University at Albany-State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY, USA
  2. 2.Department of Biology, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  4. 4.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. 5.Department of Geology & Geophysics, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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