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Nature. 2004 Sep 2;431(7004):56-9.

Decline of surface temperature and salinity in the western tropical Pacific Ocean in the Holocene epoch.

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  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


In the present-day climate, surface water salinities are low in the western tropical Pacific Ocean and increase towards the eastern part of the basin. The salinity of surface waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean is thought to be controlled by a combination of atmospheric convection, precipitation, evaporation and ocean dynamics, and on interannual timescales significant variability is associated with the El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation cycles. However, little is known about the variability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system on timescales of centuries to millennia. Here we combine oxygen isotope and Mg/Ca data from foraminifers retrieved from three sediment cores in the western tropical Pacific Ocean to reconstruct Holocene sea surface temperatures and salinities in the region. We find a decrease in sea surface temperatures of approximately 0.5 degrees C over the past 10,000 yr, whereas sea surface salinities decreased by approximately 1.5 practical salinity units. Our data imply either that the Pacific basin as a whole has become progressively less salty or that the present salinity gradient along the Equator has developed relatively recently.

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