Arabian Sea sediments record changes in the upwelling system off Arabia, which is driven by the monsoon circulation system over the NW Indian Ocean. In accordance with climate models, and differing from other large upwelling areas of the tropical ocean, a 500,000-yr record of productivity at ODP Site 723 shows consistently stronger upwelling during interglaciations than during glaciations. Sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) reconstructed from the alkenone unsaturation index (U
37) are high (up to 27°C) during interglaciations and low (22-24°C) during glaciations, indicating a glacial-interglacial temperature change of >3°C in spite of the dampening effect of enhanced or weakened upwelling. The increased productivity is attributed to stronger monsoon winds during interglacial times relative to glacial times, whereas the difference in SSTs must be unrelated to upwelling and to the summer monsoon intensity. The winter (NE) monsoon was more effective in cooling the Arabian Sea during glaciations then it is now.