Interannual Coral Δ14C Records of Surface Water Exchange Across the Luzon Strait

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, Volume 124, p.491-505 (2019)


The Luzon Strait (LS) hosts the largest transport of water between the Western Pacific Ocean (WPO) and the South China Sea (SCS). The transport through the strait, dominated by the westward propagation of the Kuroshio Intrusion, influences the climate and circulation of the SCS. While numerical models have investigated the interannual variability of the transport and subsequent water exchange across the LS, a lack of long‐term on‐site records prevents a general consensus on the transport rates, variability, and drivers. Corals offer high‐resolution, continuous histories of radiocarbon (Δ14C) content of the seawater dissolved inorganic carbon, allowing us to track changes in ocean transport and circulation through time. Seasonal and annual Δ14C samples from Houbihu, Taiwan, and Palaui, Philippines, located on either side of the strait, are compared to the Western Pacific Ocean and SCS Δ14C records to examine the spatial and temporal Δ14C variability in the region. We calculated the mean transport across the strait using a five‐box mixing model and identified its potential drivers. The mean amount of water exchanged across the strait from 1970 to 1999 was 2.2 Sv, ranging from −13.4 to 16 Sv, where a positive (negative) value indicates net flow into (out of) the SCS. A weaker East Asian Winter Monsoon increases the contribution of the SCS outflow on the Kuroshio Intrusion‐dominated LS, while the El Niño–Southern Oscillation primarily drives the intrusion into the SCS. These results provide support to the dominant control of El Niño–Southern Oscillation on the long‐term ocean circulation variability in this region.