Micropaleontology and Ocean Surface Climate

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Science  03 Nov 1978:
Vol. 202, Issue 4367, pp. 475-481
DOI: 10.1126/science.202.4367.475


The interpretation of micropaleontological data based on the fossil remains of planktonic organisms requires an appropriate reference frame. The environmental changes that the plankton experience are a combination of geographic and seasonal factors, correlated by the average drift trajectories. Appropriate methods have been developed to study two drifts in the North Atlantic, one form the west-central Sargasso Sea to the Norwegian Sea and another around the subtropical Sargasso Gyre. The data on planktonic foraminifera from core tops can be used to relate the relative species distribution to the characteristics of the present sea surface. At any one location, the fossil assembly results from a superposition of plankton that have had varied time-temperature histories. To interpret the climatic and geologic history from downcore data will require an iterative technique. One assumes a surface climatology, determines the fossil record this would produce, and then compares this inference with available core data. The climatological assumptions are then modified until a satisfactory agreement is reached.