High-resolution late Holocene climate records that can resolve seasonality are essential for confirming past climatic dynamics, understanding the late 20th century global warming and predicting future climate. Here a new composite record of the sea surface temperature, SST, variation in the northern South China Sea (SCS) during the late Holocene is constructed by combining seven seasonally-resolved coral and Tridacna gigasSr/Ca-based SST time-windows with the instrumental SST record from modern interval between 1990 and 2000. This composite multi-proxy marine record, together with the reconstructions from mainland China and tropical Western Pacific, indicates that the late Holocene warm periods, the Roman Warm Period (RWP) and Medieval Warm Period (MWP), were prominently imprinted and documented in the climatic and environmental history of the East Asia–Western Pacific region. Meanwhile, substantial and significant SST seasonality variations during the late Holocene were observed in the composite record. The observed increase in seasonality (or amplitude of seasonal cycles) during the cold periods around our study area was probably caused by the different amplitudes between winter versus summer SST variations in northern SCS, with much larger SST variation during winters than during summers for the late Holocene. In addition, the distinctive warm, cold and neutral climatic episodes identified in our northern SCS composite SST record correspond well with other paleo reconstructions from mainland China and especially well with the Northern Hemisphere-wide composites by Moberg et al. (2005) and Ljungqvist (2010). The overall agreement however also calls for more information and insights on how seasonal temperatures and their ranges vary on decadal–centennial timescales.
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