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Holocene Tropical Sea Surface Temperature and Climate

We are interested in reconstructing tropical temperatures and climate of the late Holocene. One reason for this interest relates to evidence, based largely on high latitude and high altitude terrestrial archives, that the earth's temperatures have not been as warm as today during the last 500 years, and possibly during the last 1300 years (e.g IPCC, 2007). The tropics, which are ~75% ocean, are under-represented in these temperature reconstructions. Therefore, in order to improve estimates of past temperature change, it is extremely important to include records from the tropical oceans. The hydrological cycle is very sensitive to even small changes in tropical SSTs and gradients. Thus, in order to understand mechanisms of climate change, better reconstructions of past tropical SSTs are needed.

We have taken two approaches so far to reconstruct tropical SSTs. First, we have been working on extracting SST from coral growth rates (Saenger et al., 2009). This approach has provided a detailed record of SST variabilty since ~1550AD from the tropical Atlantic. We have plans to core older corals to extract longer records. We have also used the Mg/Ca of foraminifera from rapidly accumulating deep-sea sediments to extract SST records. While not as detailed as coral records, it is more feasible to go back several millennia using marine sediments, which we have done in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (Oppo et al, 2009).

Latest Publication

  • Rosenthal, Y., BK Linsley, Oppo, DW, Pacific Ocean Heat Content during the past 10,000 years, Science, 342 617-621, 2013.         Article Link

Related Publications

  • Yan, H., L. Sun, D. W. Oppo, Y. Wang, Z. Liu, Z. Xie, X. Liu, South China Sea hydrological changes and Pacific Walker variations over the last millennium. Nature Communications 2, 293 doi:10.1038/ncomms1297 (2011)
  • Tierney, J. E, D.W. Oppo, J. M. Russell, B. K. Linsley, Y. Rosenthal, Coordinated hydrological regimes in the Indo-Pacific region during the past two millennia, Paleoceanography, doi:10.1029/2009PA001871 (2010).
  • Linsley, B. K., Y. Rosenthal, and D. W. Oppo, Holocene evolution of the Indonesian throughflow and the western Pacific warm pool, Nature Geoscience, 3, 578–583 (2010).
  • Makou, M. C., T. I. Eglinton, D. W. Oppo,  K. A. Hughen Postglacial changes in El Niño and La Niña behavior Geology, 38, p. 43-46, doi:10.1130/G30366.1 (2010).
  • Oppo, DW, Y Rosenthal, BK Linsley, 2000-year-long temperature and hydrology reconstructions from the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool,  Nature, 460113-160, doi:10.1038/nature08233, 2009.
  • Saenger, C., A. L. Cohen, D. W. Oppo, R. B. Halley, J. E. Carilli, Surface temperature trends and variability in the low-latitude North Atlantic since 1552, Nature Geosciences, 1-4, doi:10.1038/NGEO552 (2009).
  • Saenger C., P. Chang, L. Ji, D. W. Oppo, A. L. Cohen, Tropical Atlantic climate response to low-latitude and extratropical sea-surface temperature: a Little Ice Age perspective, Geophys. Res. Letts. 36, L11703, doi:10.1029/2009GL038677 (2009).
  • Saenger, C., A. L. Cohen, D. W. Oppo, and D. Hubbard, Interpreting sea surface temperature from strontium/calcium ratios in Montastrea corals: Link with growth rate and implications for proxy reconstructions, Paleoceanography, 23, PA3102, doi:10.1029/2007PA001572 , 2008.


Anne Cohen (WHOI)

Fern Gibbons (former WHOI student)

Yair Rosenthal (Rutgers)

Brad Linsley (LDEO)

Jessica Tierney (WHOI)

Casey Saenger (U Alaska)