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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 27 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 27 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Pacific climate reflected in Waipuna Cave dripwater hydrochemistry

Cinthya Nava-Fernandez1, Adam Hartland2, Fernando Gázquez3, Ola Kwiecien1, Norbert Marwan4, Bethany Fox5,2, John Hellstrom6, Andrew Pearson2, Brittany Ward2, Amanda French2, David A. Hodell7, Adrian Immenhauser1, and Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach1 Cinthya Nava-Fernandez et al.
  • 1Sediment- and Isotope Geology, Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Geophysics, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstr. 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany
  • 2Environmental Research Institute, School of Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand
  • 3Department of Biology and Geology, Universidad de Almeria, Almería, 04120, Spain
  • 4Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences, School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, UK
  • 6School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 7Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK

Abstract. Cave microclimatic and geochemical monitoring is vitally important for correct interpretations of proxy time series from speleothems with regard to past climatic and environmental dynamics. We present results of a comprehensive cave monitoring programme in Waipuna Cave in the North Island of New Zealand, a region that is strongly influenced by the southern Westerlies and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This study aims to characterise the response of the Waipuna Cave hydrological system to atmospheric circulation dynamics in the southwestern Pacific region in order to secure the quality of ongoing palaeo-environmental reconstructions from this cave.

Cave air and water temperatures, drip rates, and CO2, concentration were measured, and samples for water isotopes (δ18O, δD, d-excess, 17Oexcess) and elemental ratios (Mg / Ca, Sr / Ca), were collected continuously and/or at monthly intervals from 10 drip sites inside Waipuna Cave for a period of ca. 3 years. These datasets were compared to surface air temperature, rainfall, and potential evaporation from nearby meteorological stations to test the degree of signal transfer and expression of surface environmental conditions in Waipuna Cave hydrochemistry.

Based on the drip response dynamics to rainfall and other characteristics we identify three hydrological pathways in Waipuna Cave: diffuse flow, combined flow, and fracture flow. Dripwater isotopes do not reflect seasonal variability, but show higher values during severe drought. Dripwater δ18O values display limited variability and reflect the mean isotopic signature of precipitation, testifying to rapid and thorough buffering in the epikarst. Mg / Ca and Sr / Ca ratios in dripwaters are predominantly controlled by prior calcite precipitation (PCP). Prior calcite precipitation is strongest during austral summer (December–February), reflecting drier conditions and lack of effective infiltration, and is weakest during the wet austral winter (July–September). The Sr / Ca ratio is particularly sensitive to ENSO conditions due to the interplay of congruent/incongruent host rock dissolution, which manifests itself in lower Sr / Ca in above-average warmer and wetter (La Niña-like) conditions. Our microclimatic observations at Waipuna Cave provide valuable baseline for perceptive interpretation of speleothem proxy records aiming at reconstructing the past expression of Pacific climate modes.

Cinthya Nava-Fernandez et al.

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Cinthya Nava-Fernandez et al.

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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Speleothems are powerful archives of past climate, under the premise of understanding modern local hydrology and its relation to regional circulation patterns. We use a 3-year monitoring dataset to test the sensitivity of Waipuna Cave (NZ) to seasonal changes and ENSO dynamics. Dripwater data suggest fast (days to weeks) response to rainfall events; its elemental composition reflects seasonal cycle and ENSO variability. Waipuna Cave speleothems have high potential for past ENSO reconstructions.
Speleothems are powerful archives of past climate, under the premise of understanding modern...