Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
Research article
22 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 22 Mar 2013

Controls of Caribbean surface hydrology during the mid- to late Holocene: insights from monthly resolved coral records

C. Giry, T. Felis, M. Kölling, W. Wei, G. Lohmann, and S. Scheffers

Abstract. Several proxy-based and modeling studies have investigated long-term changes in Caribbean climate during the Holocene, however, very little is known on its variability on short timescales. Here we reconstruct seasonality and interannual to multidecadal variability of sea surface hydrology of the southern Caribbean Sea by applying paired coral Sr/Ca and δ18O measurements on fossil annually banded Diploria strigosa corals from Bonaire. This allows for better understanding of seasonal to multidecadal variability of the Caribbean hydrological cycle during the mid- to late Holocene. The monthly resolved coral Δδ18O records are used as a proxy for the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater (δ18Osw) of the southern Caribbean Sea. Consistent with modern day conditions, annual δ18Osw cycles reconstructed from three modern corals reveal that freshwater budget at the study site is influenced by both net precipitation and advection of tropical freshwater brought by wind-driven surface currents. In contrast, the annual δ18Osw cycle reconstructed from a mid-Holocene coral indicates a sharp peak towards more negative values in summer, suggesting intense summer precipitation at 6 ka BP (before present). In line with this, our model simulations indicate that increased seasonality of the hydrological cycle at 6 ka BP results from enhanced precipitation in summertime. On interannual to multidecadal timescales, the systematic positive correlation observed between reconstructed sea surface temperature and salinity suggests that freshwater discharged from the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and transported into the Caribbean by wind-driven surface currents is a critical component influencing sea surface hydrology on these timescales.