Persistent decadal-scale rainfall variability in the tropical South Pacific Convergence Zone through the past six centuries
Modern Pacific decadal variability (PDV) has global impacts; hence records of PDV from the pre-instrumental period are needed to better inform models that are used to project future climate variability. We focus here on reconstructing rainfall in the western tropical Pacific (Solomon Islands; ~ 9.5° S, ~160° E), a region directly influenced by PDV, using cave deposits (stalagmite). A relationship is developed between δ 18O variations in the stalagmite and local rainfall amount to produce a 600 yr record of rainfall variability from the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ). We present evidence for large (~1.5 m), abrupt, and periodic changes in total annual rainfall amount on decadal to multidecadal timescales since 1423 ± 5 CE (Common Era) in the Solomon Islands. The timing of the decadal changes in rainfall inferred from the 20th century portion of the stalagmite δ 18O record coincides with previously identified decadal shifts in PDV-related Pacific ocean–atmosphere behavior (Clement et al., 2011; Deser et al., 2004). The Solomons record of PDV is not associated with variations in external forcings, but rather results from internal climate variability. The 600 yr Solomon Islands stalagmite δ 18O record indicates that decadal oscillations in rainfall are a persistent characteristic of SPCZ-related climate variability.