Land-sea correlations in the Australian region: post-glacial onset of the monsoon in northwestern Western Australia

Patrick De Deckker*, Timothy T. Barrows, John Rogers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Deep-sea core Fr10/95-GC17, collected offshore North West Cape at the western tip of Western Australia, is located beneath the path of the Leeuwin Current. This shallow, warm and low salinity current is an offshoot of the Indonesian Throughflow that transfers water and heat from the West Pacific Ocean into the Indian Ocean. The location is at the edge of the Indo Pacific Warm Pool, the source of large-scale transfer of moisture and heat from the ocean to the atmosphere. For this core, we combine previously published data with new research and use a revised chronology to re-examine the timing of climate change during the last 34,000 years in the tropics of northern Australia. The age model for the core is based on 15 radiocarbon dates complemented by luminescence ages and an oxygen isotope record. This study draws on an extensive range of analyses that have been performed on the core, including micropalaeontology of planktic and benthic foraminifera and coccoliths, stable isotopes analysis of foraminifera and their faunal composition, clay content, sediment composition and pollen analyses. Sea-surface and land temperatures are estimated from the foraminifer faunal analyses and from pollen spectra, respectively. The clay fraction and sediment composition and radiogenic isotopes of that fraction helped identify changes both on land and at sea: changes such as rainfall as shown by river discharge, and oceanic current tracing by neodymium, strontium and lead isotopes obtained from sediments.The most significant finding is that a major threshold was crossed at 13kaBP. Prior to that time, rainfall over NW Western Australia was low as was sea-surface temperature (SST); river discharge to the ocean was also low as a result of the lack of monsoonal activity and finally, ocean alkalinity would have been lower than at present due to the uptake of atmospheric CO2. By 13kaBP, the entire system moved away from glacial period conditions. The Indo-Australian monsoon commenced in and offshore northwestern Western Australia. SST and land temperature increased dramatically and ocean alkalinity changed due to the formation of a "barrier layer" (a low salinity cap), over the Indo Pacific Warm Pool. During the Holocene, river discharge and the land and ocean temperatures did not covary, for example, the highest rainfall did not coincide with the highest SST. Finally, the last 5ka saw a strengthening of ENSO in the region.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)181-194
    Number of pages14
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Early online date28 Oct 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


    • Aragonite compensation depth
    • Australian monsoon
    • Clay mineralogy
    • Deglaciation
    • Foraminifer MAT
    • Indo Pacific Warm Pool
    • Leeuwin Current
    • Maritime continent
    • Mixed layer depth
    • Sea-surface temperature


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