Understanding Indo-Pacific oceanic exchange through the Indonesian Throughflow since the late 1800s – a synthesis of coral δ18O and high-resolution ocean models

Sujata A Murty1, Caroline Ummenhofer2, Markus Scheinert3, Erik Behrens4, Arne Biastoch5 and Claus W Boning5, (1)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (3)GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany, (4)National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand, (5)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
The Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) serves as an important oceanic teleconnection for Indo-Pacific climate, altering heat and buoyancy transport from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. Equatorial Pacific wind forcing transmitted through the ITF impacts interannual to interdecadal Indian Ocean thermocline depth and heat content, with implications for preconditioning Indian Ocean Dipole events. Yet the modulation of Indian Ocean thermal properties at seasonal timescales is still poorly understood. Here we synthesize coral δ18O records, instrumental indices (El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Asian Monsoon), and simulated ocean variability (sea surface salinity (SSS) and temperature (SST), heat content, mixed layer depth) from state-of-the-art NEMO ocean model hindcasts to explore drivers of seasonal to multi-decadal variability. All coral sites are located within main ITF pathways (Makassar and Lombok straits) and are influenced by monsoon-driven, buoyant South China Sea (SCS) surface waters during boreal winter that obstruct surface ITF flow and reduce heat transport to the Indian Ocean. Makassar and Lombok Strait coral δ18O co-varies with simulated SSS, subsurface heat content anomalies (50-350m) and mixed layer depth at the coral sites and in the eastern Indian Ocean. At decadal timescales, simulated boreal winter ocean variability at the coral sites additionally indicates a potential intensification of the SCS buoyancy plug from the mid- to late-20th century. Notably, the variability in these coral and model responses reveals sensitivity to phase changes in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, ENSO and the East Asian Winter Monsoon. These results collectively suggest that the paleoproxy records are capturing important features of regional hydrography and Indo-Pacific exchange, including responses to regional monsoon variability. Such proxy-model comparison is critical for understanding the drivers of variability related to changes in ITF oceanic teleconnections over the 19th and 20th centuries.