Sea-Surface Temperature from Coral Skeletal Strontium/Calcium Ratios

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Science  31 Jul 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5070, pp. 644-647
DOI: 10.1126/science.257.5070.644


Seasonal records of tropical sea-surface temperature (SST) over the past 105 years can be recovered from high-precision measurements of coral strontium/calcium ratios with the use of thermal ionization mass spectrometry. The temperature dependence of these ratios was calibrated with corals collected at SST recording stations and by 18O/16O thermometry. The results suggest that mean monthly SST may be determined with an apparent accuracy of better than 0.5°C. Measurements on a fossil coral indicate that 10,200 years ago mean annual SSTs near Vanuatu in the southwestern Pacific Ocean were about 5°C colder than today and that seasonal variations in SST were larger. These data suggest that tropical climate zones were compressed toward the equator during deglaciation.