Mid‐Holocene rainfall seasonality and ENSO dynamics over the south‐western Pacific

Cinthya Nava‐Fernandez*, Tobias Braun, Chelsea L. Pederson, Bethany Fox, Adam Hartland, Ola Kwiecien, Sebastian N. Höpker, Stefano Bernasconi, Madalina Jaggi, John Hellstrom, Fernando Gázquez, Amanda French, Norbert Marwan, Adrian Immenhauser, Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach

*Corresponding author for this work

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El Niño–Southern Oscillation dynamics affect global weather patterns, with regionally diverse hydrological responses posing critical societal challenges. The lack of seasonally resolved hydrological proxy reconstructions beyond the observational era limits our understanding of boundary conditions that drive and/or adjust El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability. Detailed reconstructions of past El Niño–Southern Oscillation dynamics can help modelling efforts, highlight impacts on disparate ecosystems and link to extreme events that affect populations from the tropics to high latitudes. Here, mid‐Holocene El Niño–Southern Oscillation and hydrological changes are reconstructed in the south‐west Pacific using a stalagmite from Niue Island, which represents the period 6.4–5.4 ka BP. Stable oxygen and carbon isotope ratios, trace elements and greyscale data from a U/Th‐dated and layer counted stalagmite profile are combined to infer changes in local hydrology at sub‐annual to multi‐decadal timescales. Principal component analysis reveals seasonal‐scale hydrological changes expressed as variations in stalagmite growth patterns and geochemical characteristics. Higher levels of host rock‐derived elements (Sr/Ca and U/Ca) and higher δ18O and δ13C values are observed in dark, dense calcite laminae deposited during the dry season, whereas during the wet season, higher concentrations of soil‐derived elements (Zn/Ca and Mn/Ca) and lower δ18O and δ13C values are recorded in pale, porous calcite laminae. The multi‐proxy record from Niue shows seasonal cycles associated with hydrological changes controlled by the positioning and strength of the South Pacific Convergence Zone. Wavelet analysis of the greyscale record reveals that El Niño–Southern Oscillation was continuously active during the mid‐Holocene, with two weaker intervals at 6–5.9 and 5.6–5.5 ka BP. El Niño–Southern Oscillation especially affects dry season rainfall dynamics, with increased cyclone activity that reduces hydrological seasonality during El Niño years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-194
Number of pages19
JournalThe Depositional Record
Issue number1
Early online date2 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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