A Coral Perspective on Holocene Climate Dynamics of the
Western Pacific Warm Pool
Dr. Frederick W. Taylor
Institute for Geophysics
John A.& Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences
The University of Texas at Austin

The Western Pacific Warm Pool (WPWP) has come to be recognized as a key component of the contemporary global climate system. Its significance is illustrated by modern El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events that dramatically affect weather around the world. Yet the WPWP role in the Younger Dryas-Holocene transition, the Holocene cold event at 8.2 Ka, the Hypsithermal, and other major Holocene climate changes remains largely unexplored on subannual to decadal-time scales. The annual density bands in fossil corals offer one of the best archives of subannually resolved decadal-to-century-scale climate history. For any time and place for which fossil corals can be obtained, it is possible to use d18O, Sr/Ca, U/Ca and other trace metals in corals as a proxies for paleoceanographic conditions including both temperature and salinity variations. Besides recording precise seasonal climate records, corals are particularly suited to age dating by 230Th, 231Pa, and 14C methods. At most localities and time intervals for which coral climate records are needed, costly offshore drilling would be required. Consequently, very few coral climate records have been generated for times when sea level was even a few meters lower than present. However, places exist where tectonic uplift has raised even Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) fossil corals above present sea level and one can select corals by species, size, and preservation. We have exploited these special situations to obtain cores of Holocene fossil corals back to the Younger Dryas-Holocene transition near 12 Ka. Some of these corals will produce climate records on the order of 100–175 years long. Presently, we have generated short Holocene climate records that provide intriguing “snap shots” of the past climate of the WPWP indicating that it has a far more dynamic history than conventional wisdom would allow.