Coral δ18O evidence for Pacific Ocean mediated decadal variability in Panamanian ITCZ rainfall back to the early 1700s

Brenner, Logan; Linsley, Braddock; Dunbar, Robert B.; Wellington, Gerard

In Central America, seasonal and interannual shifts in the position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) control the hydrologic budget. To better understand long-term changes in regional ITCZ-driven precipitation we re-examined a coral δ18O record from a Porites lobata coral head near Secas Island (Core ID: S1) (7°59′ N, 82°3′ W) in the Gulf of Chiriquí on the Pacific side of Panamá. Linsley et al., (1994) originally published the 277-year time series and first described the presence of a narrow-band decadal cycle (period near 9–12 years) in δ18O. The original study did not present potential drivers for the decadal cycle, although they ruled out the influence of the sun spot cycle. Our re-analysis of this record supports the original interpretation that coral δ18O is largely responding to variations in precipitation and associated river discharge, but with a new proposed mechanism to explain the decadal mode. There is no similar decadal cycle in gridded instrumental sea surface temperature from the area, suggesting that the decadal coral δ18O signal results from hydrologic changes that influence coastal δ18O seawater. The decadal component in S1 δ18O is also coherent with a decadal mode embedded in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) Index that we suggest has tropical origins. We speculate that the coral's temporary δ18O deviation (1900–1930) in the decadal mode from the corresponding bands in rainfall and the PDO can be ascribed to a weak PDO in addition to local Panama gap wind variability and its effect on moisture transport from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Ultimately, the Secas Island coral δ18O series records ITCZ-driven precipitation dictated by both the Atlantic and Pacific basins.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Brenner_et_al.__2016_decadal_ITCZ.pdf Brenner_et_al.__2016_decadal_ITCZ.pdf application/pdf 2.83 MB Download File

Also Published In

Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

More About This Work