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International Ocean Discovery Program
Expedition 356 Preliminary Report

Indonesian Throughflow

A 5 million year history of the Indonesian Throughflow,
Australian monsoon, and subsidence on the northwest shelf
of Australia1

31 July–30 September 2015

Stephen J. Gallagher, Craig S. Fulthorpe, Kara Bogus, and the Expedition 356 Scientists

Published January 2017

See the full publication in PDF.


The Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) is a critical part of the global thermohaline conveyor. It plays a key role in transporting heat from the equatorial Pacific (the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool) to the Indian Ocean and exerts a major control on global climate. The complex tectonic history of the Indonesian archipelago, a result of continued northward motion and impingement of the Australasian plate into the southeast Asian part of the Eurasian plate, makes it difficult to reconstruct long-term (i.e., million year) ITF history from sites within the archipelago. The best areas to investigate ITF history are downstream in the Indian Ocean, either in the deep ocean away from strong tectonic deformation or along proximal passive margins that are directly under the influence of the ITF. Although previous Ocean Drilling Program and Deep Sea Drilling Project deepwater cores recovered in the Indian Ocean have been used to chart Indo-Pacific Warm Pool influence and, by proxy, ITF variability, these sections lack direct biogeographic and sedimentological evidence of the ITF. International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 356 cored seven sites covering a latitudinal range of 29°S–18°S off the northwest coast of Australia to obtain a 5 My record of ITF, Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, and climate evolution that has the potential to match orbital-scale deep-sea records in its resolution. The material recovered will allow us to describe the history of the Australian monsoon and its variability, a system whose genesis is thought to be related to the initiation of the East Asian monsoon and is hypothesized to have been in place since the Pliocene or earlier. It also will lead to a better understanding of the nature and timing of the development of aridity on the Australian continent.

Detailed paleobathymetric and stratigraphic data from the transect will also allow subsidence curves to be constructed to constrain the spatial and temporal patterns of vertical motions caused by the interaction between plate motion and convection within the Earth’s mantle, known as dynamic topography. The northwest shelf is an ideal location to study this phenomenon as it is positioned on the fastest moving continent since the Eocene, on the edge of the degree 2 geoid anomaly. Accurate subsidence analyses over 10° of latitude can resolve whether northern Australia is moving with or over either a time-transient or long-term stationary downwelling within the mantle, thereby vastly improving our understanding of deep-Earth dynamics and their impact on surficial processes.

1Gallagher, S.J., Fulthorpe, C.S., Bogus, K., and the Expedition 356 Scientists, 2017. Expedition 356 Preliminary Report: Indonesian Throughflow. International Ocean Discovery Program.​

This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.