Journal article

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Understanding past changes in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) is crucial; however, existing proxies for reconstructing past SSTs are hindered by unknown ancient seawater composition (foraminiferal Mg/Ca and δ18O), or reflect subsurface temperatures (TEX86) or have a limited applicable temperature range (Uk'37). We examine clumped isotope (Δ47) thermometry to fossil coccolith-rich material as an SST proxy, as clumped isotopes are independent of original seawater composition and applicable to a wide temperature range and coccolithophores are widespread and dissolution resistant. The Δ47-derived temperatures from <63, <20, <10 and 2-5 μm size fractions of two equatorial Pacific late Miocene-early Pliocene sediment samples (c1; c2) range between ∼18-29°C, with c1 temperatures consistently above c2. Removing the >63 μm fraction removes most non-mixed layer components; however, the Δ47-derived temperatures display an unexpected slight decreasing trend with decreasing size fraction. This unexpected trend could partly arise because larger coccoliths (5-12 μm) are removed during the size fraction separation process. The c1 and <63 μm c2 Δ47-derived temperatures are comparable to concurrent Uk'37 SSTs. The <20, <10 and 2-5 μm c2 Δ47-derived temperatures are consistently cooler than expected. The Δ47-Uk'37 temperature offset is probably caused by abiotic/diagenetic calcite present in the c2 2-5 μm fraction (∼53% by area), which potentially precipitated at bottom water temperatures of ∼6°C . Our results indicate that clumped isotopes on coccolith-rich sediment fractions have potential as an SST proxy, particularly in tropical regions, providing that careful investigation of the appropriate size fraction for the region and timescale is undertaken.

Publication date: 
Thursday, September 29, 2016