Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

2,000-year-long temperature and hydrology reconstructions from the Indo-Pacific warm pool


Northern Hemisphere surface temperature reconstructions suggest that the late twentieth century was warmer than any other time during the past 500 years and possibly any time during the past 1,300 years (refs 1, 2). These temperature reconstructions are based largely on terrestrial records from extra-tropical or high-elevation sites; however, global average surface temperature changes closely follow those of the global tropics3, which are 75% ocean. In particular, the tropical Indo-Pacific warm pool (IPWP) represents a major heat reservoir that both influences global atmospheric circulation4 and responds to remote northern high-latitude forcings5,6. Here we present a decadally resolved continuous sea surface temperature (SST) reconstruction from the IPWP that spans the past two millennia and overlaps the instrumental record, enabling both a direct comparison of proxy data to the instrumental record and an evaluation of past changes in the context of twentieth century trends. Our record from the Makassar Strait, Indonesia, exhibits trends that are similar to a recent Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction2. Reconstructed SST was, however, within error of modern values from about ad 1000 to ad 1250, towards the end of the Medieval Warm Period. SSTs during the Little Ice Age (approximately ad 1550–1850) were variable, and 0.5 to 1 °C colder than modern values during the coldest intervals. A companion reconstruction of δ18O of sea water—a sea surface salinity and hydrology indicator—indicates a tight coupling with the East Asian monsoon system and remote control of IPWP hydrology on centennial–millennial timescales, rather than a dominant influence from local SST variation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Mean annual SST of the IPWP.
Figure 2: Sea surface temperature and δ 18 O sw reconstructions.
Figure 3: Comparison of composite Indonesia records to hemispheric and regional records.
Figure 4: Comparison of Indonesian δ 18 O sw and Indian rainfall.


  1. Jansen, E. et al. in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 466–482 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Mann, M. E. et al. Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 13252–13257 (2008)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. National Research Council. Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (National Academy Press, 2006); available at 〈〉.

  4. Qu, T., Du, Y., Strachan, J., Meyers, G. & Slingo, J. Sea surface temperature and its variability in the Indonesian region. Oceanography 18, 50–61 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Broccoli, A. J., Dahl, K. A. & Stouffer, R. J. Response of the ITCZ to northern hemisphere cooling. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33 10.1029/2005GL024546 (2006)

  6. Chiang, J. C. H. & Bitz, C. M. Influence of high latitude ice cover on the marine Intertropical Convergence Zone. Clim. Dyn. 25, 477–496 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Newton, A., Thunell, R. & Stott, L. Climate and hydrologic variability in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool during the last Millennium. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33 L19710 10.1029/2006GL0273234 (2006)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Smith, T. M., Reynolds, R. W., Peterson, T. C. & Lawrimore, J. Improvements to NOAA's historical merged land-ocean surface temperature analysis (1880–2006). J. Clim. 21, 2283–2296 (2008)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Xie, P. & Arkin, P. A. Analyses of global monthly precipitation using gauge observations, satellite estimates, and numerical model predictions. J. Clim. 9, 840–858 (1996)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Aldrian, E. & Susanto, R. D. Identification of three dominant rainfall regions within Indonesia and their relationship to sea surface temperature. Int. J. Clim. 23, 1435–1452 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. International Atomic Energy Agency/World Meteorological Organization. GNIP programme: resources. 〈〉 (2006)

  12. Vuille, M., Werner, M., Bradley, R. S. & Keimig, F. Stable isotopes in precipitation in the Asian monsoon region. J. Geophys. Res. 110 D23108 10.1029/2005JD006022 (2005)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Kawahata, H., Nishimura, A. & Gagan, M. Seasonal change in foraminiferal production in the western equatorial Pacific warm pool: evidence from sediment trap experiments. Deep-Sea Res. II 49, 2783–2801 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Mohtadi, M. et al. Low-latitude control on seasonal and interannual changes in planktonic foraminiferal flux and shell geochemistry off south Java: a sediment trap study. Paleoceanography 24 10.1029/2008PA001636 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Thunell, R. C. & Reynolds, L. A. Sedimentation of planktonic foraminifera: seasonal changes in species in the Panama Basin. Micropaleontology 30, 243–262 (1984)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Anand, P., Elderfield, H. & Conte, M. H. Calibration of Mg/Ca thermometry in planktonic foraminifera from a sediment trap time-series. Paleoceanography 18 10.1029/2002PA000846 (2003)

  17. Lea, D. W., Pak, D. K. & Spero, H. J. Climate impact of late Quaternary equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature variations. Science 289, 1719–1724 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Stott, L. et al. Decline of western Pacific surface ocean salinity and temperature in the early Holocene. Nature 431, 56–59 (2004)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Rosenthal, Y., Oppo, D. W. & Linsley, B. K. The amplitude and phasing of climate change during the last deglaciation in the Sulu Sea, western equatorial Pacific. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30 10.1029/2002GL016612 (2003)

  20. Moy, C. M., Seltzer, G. O., Rodbell, D. T. & Anderson, D. M. Variability of El Niño/Southern Oscillation activity at millennial timescales during the Holocene epoch. Nature 420, 162–165 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Conroy, J. L., Overpeck, J. T., Cole, J. E., Shanahan, T. M. & Steinitz-Kannan, M. Holocene changes in eastern tropical Pacific climate inferred from a Galapagos lake sediment record. Quat. Sci. Rev. 27, 1166–1180 (2008)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. Gordon, A. L., Susanto, R. D. & Vranes, K. Cool Indonesian throughflow as a consequence of restricted surface layer flow. Nature 425, 824–828 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Zhang, P. et al. A test of climate, sun, and culture relationships from an 1810-year Chinese cave record. Science 322, 940–942 (2008)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Yancheva, G. et al. Influence of the intertropical convergence zone on the East Asian monsoon. Nature 445, 74–77 (2007)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Sontakke, N. A., Pant, G. B. & Singh, N. Construction of all-India summer monsoon rainfall series for the period 1844–1991. J. Clim. 6, 1807–1811 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Haug, G. H. et al. Southward migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone through the Holocene. Science 293, 1304–1308 (2001)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Wang, Y. et al. The Holocene Asian monsoon: links to solar changes and North Atlantic climate. Science 308, 854–857 (2005)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Barsugli, J. J. & Sardeshmukh, P. D. Global atmospheric sensitivity to tropical SST anomalies throughout the Indo-Pacific basin. J. Clim. 15, 3427–3442 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  29. Locarnini, R. A., Mishonov, A. V., Antonov, J. I., Boyer, T. P. & Garcia, H. E. World Ocean Atlas 2005 Vol. 1, Temperature (ed. Levitus, S.) (NOAA Atlas NESDIS 61, US Govt Printing Office, 2006)

    Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the following people and institutions for their support: Y. S. Djajadihardja, F. Syamsudin, the captain and crew of our 2003 RV Baruna Jaya VIII cruise, the Indonesian Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), and the Center of Research and Development for Oceanography (LIPI) of Indonesia. This work was financially supported by the US NSF and the Ocean Climate Change Institute of WHOI. We thank L. Zou, D. Ostermann, K. Rose, S. Pike and M. Chong for technical assistance, W. Martin, O. Marchal, C. Saenger and K. Dahl for discussions, and the NOSAMS and Radioanalytical facilities at WHOI for radiocarbon and 210Pb analyses, respectively.

Author Contributions All authors contributed extensively to this work.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Delia W. Oppo.

Additional information

Data are available at

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-7 with Legends, Supplementary Tables 1-2, a Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Notes and Supplementary References. (PDF 1116 kb)

Supplementary Data

This file contains all the new data presented in this paper. (XLS 344 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Oppo, D., Rosenthal, Y. & Linsley, B. 2,000-year-long temperature and hydrology reconstructions from the Indo-Pacific warm pool. Nature 460, 1113–1116 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing