CLIMATOLOGY: Alkenones as a Proxy

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Science  23 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5512, pp. 2279a
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5512.2279a

In a group of papers the use of alkenones as a proxy for paleo-sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and paleoatmospheric CO2 concentrations is assessed. Although several other widely used paleo-proxies already exist, each of them has drawbacks that prevent it from serving as an unequivocal standard. The alkenone undersaturation ratio is not a perfect proxy, but after more than a decade of use, the results have been encouraging. Furthermore, the carbon-isotopic composition of organismal alkenones is a function of the concentration of atmospheric CO2, and thus has been used to infer pCO2. This set of reviews examines different facets of the use of alkenones in order to establish a better physiological understanding of their biosynthesis as well as their practical value as thermometers and CO2 barometers. — HJS

Acknowledgments

Geochem. Geophys. Geosys. 2, 2000GC000057; 2000GC000050; 2000GC000052; 2000GC000055 (2001).

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