Orbital and suborbital climate variability in the Sulu Sea, western tropical Pacific

D. W. Oppo, B. K. Linsley, Y. Rosenthal, S. Dannenmann, L. Beaufort

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14 Scopus citations


[1] A detailed record of planktic δ18O from a sediment core in the Sulu Sea, located between the South China Sea and the western Pacific warm pool, reveals that for the past 400 kyr (1 kyr = 1000 years), δ18O variability on orbital timescales is similar to that caused by changes in ice volume alone. This result indicates that in the Sulu Sea, temperature-driven changes in planktic δ18O on orbital times scales were generally compensated for by the effects of sea level and changes in seasonal monsoon intensity on the local freshwater budget, as well as by other changes in the tropical hydrologic cycle and their attendant effects on surface water δ18O. Increased freshening of the western tropical Pacific warm pool is reminiscent of La Niña conditions. However, we argue that the mean tropical climate state was not more La Niña-like than today on broader spatial scales. Suborbital variability occurred in the Sulu Sea throughout the past 400 kyr, suggesting little sensitivity to ice volume or to glacial-interglacial changes in tropical hydrology. Variations on 4-10 kyr timescales appear to be linked to those in the North Atlantic region, suggesting a common forcing of that variability. We suggest that Sulu Sea salinity variations were a response to suborbital climate variability in the North Atlantic region, transmitted via changes in the intensity of the East Asian summer monsoon. We suggest that a North Atlantic origin of that tropical suborbital variability can be reconciled with weak glacial amplification in the tropics if the tropical response is nonlinear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1003
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • East asian monsoon
  • Sea level
  • Suborbital climate variability
  • Sulu sea
  • Tropical hydrography


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