Mid-Holocene rainfall changes in the southwestern Pacific
Abstract. A better understanding of ENSO dynamics is essential for modelling future climate change and its impacts on the ecosystems and lives of the inhabitants of the tropical Pacific islands, which face considerable environmental risk in the coming decades. This study reconstructs past ENSO dynamics using a multi-proxy approach applied to a stalagmite from Niue Island that covers the period 6.4–5.4 ka BP. δ18O and δ13C, trace-element concentrations and image analysis are linked to an age-depth model constrained by eight U/Th dates and a complete lamina count.
Principal component analysis of the proxy time series reveals hydrological changes at seasonal scale that are expressed in differential stalagmite lamina growth and geochemical characteristics. Increased concentrations of host-rock derived elements (Mg/Ca and U/Ca) and higher δ18O and δ13C values are observed in the dark, dense calcite laminae that are deposited during the dry season, whereas during the wet season higher concentrations of soil derived elements (Zn/Ca, Mn/Ca) and higher δ18O and δ13C values are found in pale, porous calcite laminae. Greyscale intensity values measured along the stalagmite growth axis are used here as an indicator of colour and density changes of the alternating laminae, allowing for the construction of a further seasonality record which expresses the contrast between wet and dry seasons. The multi-proxy record from Niue shows seasonal cycles associated with hydrological changes controlled by the South Pacific convergence zone. Wavelet analysis of the greyscale record reveals that ENSO was continuously active during the depositional period, with two weaker intervals at 6–5.9 and 5.6–5.5 ka BP. ENSO activity is also observed in the seasonality record, but muted periods are more prolonged, and intervals of significant ENSO-band power are more episodic. Recurrence analysis of nonlinear behaviour shows the influence that ENSO activity exerts on seasonality patterns and allows us to quantify the predictability of the climate system. Our results suggest that recurrence in the seasonal cycle of rainfall was reduced during periods when ENSO activity was stronger, pushing the system towards stochastic conditions. The tipping points from stochastic to predictable conditions may represent transitions in the Tropical Pacific mean state.
Viewed (geographical distribution)