Indonesian Throughflow drove Australian climate from humid Pliocene to arid Pleistocene

IODP Expedition 356 Scientists

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Late Miocene to mid-Pleistocene sedimentary proxy records reveal that northwest Australia underwent an abrupt transition from dry to humid climate conditions at 5.5 million years (Ma), likely receiving year-round rainfall, but after ~3.3 Ma, climate shifted toward an increasingly seasonal precipitation regime. The progressive constriction of the Indonesian Throughflow likely decreased continental humidity and transferred control of northwest Australian climate from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, leading to drier conditions punctuated by monsoonal precipitation. The northwest dust pathway and fully established seasonal and orbitally controlled precipitation were in place by ~2.4 Ma, well after the intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation. The transition from humid to arid conditions was driven by changes in Pacific and Indian Ocean circulation and regional atmospheric moisture transport, influenced by the emerging Maritime Continent. We conclude that the Maritime Continent is the switchboard modulating teleconnections between tropical and high-latitude climate systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6914-6925
Number of pages12
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Australia
  • continental climate
  • Indonesian Throughflow
  • IODP
  • Maritime Continent
  • Neogene


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