Absolute seasonal temperature estimates from clumped isotopes in bivalve shells suggest warm and variable greenhouse climate

Niels J. de Winter, Inigo A. Müller, Ilja J. Kocken, Nicolas Thibault, Clemens V. Ullmann, Alex Farnsworth, Daniel J. Lunt, Philippe Claeys, Martin Ziegler

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Abstract

Seasonal variability in sea surface temperatures plays a fundamental role in climate dynamics and species distribution. Seasonal bias can also severely compromise the accuracy of mean annual temperature reconstructions. It is therefore essential to better understand seasonal variability in climates of the past. Many reconstructions of climate in deep time neglect this issue and rely on controversial assumptions, such as estimates of sea water oxygen isotope composition. Here we present absolute seasonal temperature reconstructions based on clumped isotope measurements in bivalve shells which, critically, do not rely on these assumptions. We reconstruct highly precise monthly sea surface temperatures at around 50 °N latitude from individual oyster and rudist shells of the Campanian greenhouse period about 78 million years ago, when the seasonal range at 50 °N comprised 15 to 27 °C. In agreement with fully coupled climate model simulations, we find that greenhouse climates outside the tropics were warmer and more seasonal than previously thought. We conclude that seasonal bias and assumptions about seawater composition can distort temperature reconstructions and our understanding of past greenhouse climates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages9
JournalCommunications Earth & Environment
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021

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