Trade winds drive pronounced seasonality in carbonate chemistry in a tropical Western Pacific island cave—Implications for speleothem paleoclimatology


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date

January 2016


Carbon dioxide concentrations in caves are a primary driver of rates of carbonate dissolution and precipitation, exerting strong control on speleothem growth rate and geochemistry. Long‐term cave monitoring studies in midlatitude caves have observed seasonal variability in cave p CO2, whereby airflow is driven by temperature contrasts between the surface and subsurface. In tropical settings, where diurnal temperature cycles are larger than seasonal temperature cycles, it has been proposed that caves will ventilate on daily time scales, preventing cave p CO2 from increasing substantially above atmospheric p CO2. By contrast, the relatively small temperature difference between the surface and subsurface may be insufficient to drive complete ventilation of tropical caves. Here we present results of an 8 year cave monitoring study, including observations of cave p CO2 and carbonate chemistry, at Jinapsan Cave, Guam (13.4°N, 144.5°E). We find that cave p CO2 in Jinapsan Cave is both relatively high and strongly seasonal, with cave p CO2 ranging from 500 to 5000 ppm. The seasonality of cave p CO2 cannot be explained by temperature contrasts, instead we find evidence that seasonal trade winds drive cave ventilation and modulate cave p CO2. Calcite deposition rates at seven drip sites in Jinapsan Cave are shown to be seasonally variable, demonstrating that speleothem growth rates in Jinapsan Cave are strongly affected by seasonal variations in cave p CO2. These results highlight the importance that advection can have on cave ventilation processes and carbonate chemistry. Seasonality in carbonate chemistry and calcite deposition in this cave affect the interpretation of speleothem‐based paleoclimate records.


Cave Ventilation, Karst, West Pacific Warm Pool, Stalagmite

Document Type



Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, Vol. 20, no. 2 (2016).