Evidence for 800years of North Atlantic multi-decadal variability from a Puerto Rican speleothem

Amos Winter, Thomas Miller, Yochanan Kushnir, Ashish Sinha, Axel Timmermann, Mark R. Jury, Christina Gallup, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The long-term behavior of the tropical Atlantic ocean/atmospheric system prior to the 20th century is not well characterized due to a lack of high-resolution proxy records to extend the short instrumental record. Here we present the first reconstruction of rainfall variability for the western tropical Atlantic that spans the past 8 centuries and is derived from the δ18O of speleothem calcite. The δ18O of speleothem calcite at this Puerto Rican location varies primarily in response to changes in the amount of summer-time precipitation. The speleothem documents multi-decadal to centennial length oscillations in δ18O that point to large variations in rainfall that have not been manifest in the short instrumental period. Since AD 1850, variations in δ18O have tracked shifts in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). We tentatively suggest that the speleothem δ18O-based rainfall record from Puerto Rico extends the history of the AMO to the 12th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-28
Number of pages6
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported, in part, by NSF OCE Grant 0738825 and NSF AGS 1003502 . M. Rincon (Univ. Southern Cal.) is thanked for his help with sampling and analyzing. Lowell Stott is thanked for fruitful discussions, stable isotope analyses and improvements to the manuscript. Luc Beaufort and Juan Estrealla are thanked for technical assistance. Y. Kushnir was supported by NOAA awards NA03OAR4320179 and NA08OAR4320912. AW would like to thank Gerald Haug for hosting him while on sabbatical.


  • Atlantic multidecadal oscillation
  • Climate change
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rainfall variability
  • Speleothems


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