Cocos (Keeling) Corals Reveal 200 Years of Multidecadal Modulation of Southeast Indian Ocean Hydrology by Indonesian Throughflow

Rick Hennekam*, Jens Zinke, Erik van Sebille, Malou ten Have, Geert Jan A. Brummer, Gert Jan Reichart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The only low latitude pathway of heat and salt from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, known as Indonesian Throughflow (ITF), has been suggested to modulate Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST) warming through redistribution of surface Pacific Ocean heat. ITF observations are only available since ~1990s, and thus, its multidecadal variability on longer time scales has remained elusive. Here we present a 200 year bimonthly record of geochemical parameters (δ18O-Sr/Ca) measured on Cocos (Keeling) corals tracking sea surface temperature (SST; Sr/Ca) and sea surface salinity (SSS; seawater-δ18O═δ18Osw) in the southeastern tropical Indian Ocean (SETIO). Our results show that SETIO SSS and δ18Osw were impacted by ITF transport over the past 60 years, and therefore, reconstructions of Cocos δ18Osw hold information on past ITF variability on longer time spans. Over the past 200 years ITF leakage into SETIO is dominated by the interannual climate modes of the Pacific Ocean (El Niño—Southern Oscillation) and Indian Ocean (Indian Ocean Dipole). Pacific decadal climate variability (represented by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) significantly impacted ITF strength over the past 200 years determining the spatiotemporal SST and SSS advection into the Indian Ocean on multidecadal time scales. A comparison of our SETIO δ18Osw record to GMST shows that ITF transport varied in synchrony with global warming rate, being predominantly high/low during GMST warming slowdown/acceleration, respectively. This hints toward an important role for the ITF in global warming rate modulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Cocos (Keeling)
  • Coral paleoclimate
  • global warming rate
  • Indonesian throughflow
  • PDO
  • seawater &δ18O

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