Stable oxygen isotopes and Sr/Ca-ratios in modern Diploria strigosa corals from different sites in the Caribbean Sea - evaluation of a new climate archive for the tropical Atlantic.

Hetzinger, Steffen (2007) Stable oxygen isotopes and Sr/Ca-ratios in modern Diploria strigosa corals from different sites in the Caribbean Sea - evaluation of a new climate archive for the tropical Atlantic. Open Access (PhD/ Doctoral thesis), Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel, 119 pp.

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Instrumental climate data are limited in length and only available with low spatial coverage before the middle of the 20th century. This is too short to reliably determine and interpret decadal and longer scale climate variability and to understand the underlying mechanisms with sufficient accuracy. A proper knowledge of past variability of the climate system is needed to assess the anthropogenic impact on climate and ecosystems, and also important with regard to long-range climate forecasting. Highly-resolved records of past climate variations that extend beyond pre-industrial times can significantly help to understand long-term climate changes and trends.
Indirect information on past environmental and climatic conditions can be deduced from climate-sensitive proxies. Large colonies of massive growing tropical reef corals have been proven to sensitively monitor changes in ambient seawater. Rapid skeletal growth, typically ranging between several millimeters to centimeters per year, allows the development of proxy records at sub-seasonal resolution. Stable oxygen isotopic composition and trace elemental ratios incorporated in the aragonitic coral skeleton can reveal a detailed history of past environmental conditions, e.g., sea surface temperature (SST). In general, coral-based reconstructions from the tropical Atlantic region have lagged behind the extensive work published using coral records from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Difficulties in the analysis of previously utilized coral archives from the Atlantic, typically corals of the genera Montastrea and Siderastrea, have so far exacerbated the production of long-term high-resolution proxy records.
The objective of this study is the evaluation of massive fast-growing corals of the species Diploria strigosa as a new marine archive for climate reconstructions from the tropical Atlantic region. For this purpose, coral records from two study sites in the eastern Caribbean Sea (Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles; and Archipelago Los Roques, Venezuela) were examined.
At Guadeloupe, a century-long monthly resolved multi-proxy coral record was generated. Results present the first δ18O (Sr/Ca)-SST calibration equations for the Atlantic braincoral Diploria strigosa, that are robust and consistent with previously published values using other coral species from different regions. Both proxies reflect local variability of SST on a sub-seasonal scale, which is a precondition for studying seasonally phase-locked climate variations, as well as track variability on a larger spatial scale (i.e., in the Caribbean and tropical North Atlantic). Coral Sr/Ca reliably records local annual to interannual temperature variations and is higher correlated to in-situ air temperature than to grid-SST. The warming calculated from coral Sr/Ca is concurrent with the strong surface temperature increase at the study site during the past decades. Proxy data show a close relationship to major climate signals from the tropical Pacific and North Atlantic (the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)) affecting the seasonal cycle of SST in the North Tropical Atlantic (NTA). Coral oxygen isotopes are also influenced by seawater δ18O (δ18Osw) which is linked to the hydrological cycle, and capture large-scale climate variability in the NTA region better than Sr/Ca. Results from a quantitative comparison between extreme events in the two most prominent modes of external forcing, namely the ENSO and NAO, and respective events recorded in seasonal coral δ18O imply that SST variability at the study site is highly linked to Pacific and North Atlantic variability, by this means supporting the assumptions of observational- and model-based studies which suggest a strong impact of ENSO and NAO forcings onto the NTA region through a modulation of trade wind strength in winter. Results from different spectral analysis tools suggest that interannual climate variability recorded by the coral proxies is largely dictated by Pacific ENSO forcing, whereas at decadal and longer timescales the
influence of the NAO is dominant.
The Archipelago Los Roques is situated in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, north of the Venezuelan coast. Year-to-year variations in monthly resolved coral δ18O of a nearcentury-long Diploria strigosa record are significantly correlated with SST and show pronounced multidecadal variations. About half of the variance in coral δ18O can be explained by variations in seawater δ18O, which can be estimated by calculating the δ18Oresidual via subtracting the SST component from measured coral δ18O. The δ18Oresidual
and a regional precipitation index are highly correlated at low frequencies, suggesting that δ18Osw variations are primarily atmospheric-driven. Warmer SSTs at Los Roques broadly coincide with higher precipitation in the southeastern Caribbean at multidecadal time scales, effectively strengthening the climate signal in the coral δ18O record. The Los Roques coral δ18O record displays a strong and statistically significant relationship to different indices of hurricane activity during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in boreal summer and is a particularly good indicator of decadal-multidecadal swings in the latter indices. In general, the detection of long-term changes and trends in Atlantic hurricane activity is hampered due to the limited length of the reliable instrumental record and the known inhomogeneity in the observational databases which result from changes in observing practice and technology over the years. The results suggest that coral-derived proxy data from Los Roques can be used to infer changes in past hurricane activity on timescales that extend well beyond the reliable record. In addition, the coral record exhibits a clear negative trend superimposed on the decadal to multidecadal cycles, indicating a significant warming and freshening of surface waters in the genesis region of tropical cyclones during the past decades. The presented coral δ18O time series provides the first and, so far, longest continuous coral-based record of hurricane activity. It appears that the combination of both signals (SST and δ18Osw) in coral δ18O leads to an amplification of large-scale climate signals in the record, and makes coral δ18O even a better proxy for hurricane activity than SST alone.
Atlantic hurricane activity naturally exhibits strong multidecadal variations that are associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the major mode of lowfrequency variability in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, the mechanisms underlying this multidecadal variability remain controversial, primarily because of the limited instrumental record. The Los Roques coral δ18O displays strong multidecadal variability with a period of approximately 60 years that is closely related to the AMO, making the Archipelago Los Roques a very sensitive location for studying low-frequency climate variability in the Atlantic Ocean.
In summary, the coral records presented in this thesis capture different key climate variables in the north tropical Atlantic region very well, indicating that fast-growing Diploria strigosa corals represent a promising marine archive for further proxy-based reconstructions of past climate variability on a range of time scales.

Document Type: Thesis (PhD/ Doctoral thesis)
Thesis Advisor: UNSPECIFIED
Additional Information: Supplementary data: - Referent Prof. Dr. W. C. Dullo, Koreferent B. Schöne.
Keywords: Paleoceanography; Corals, oxygen isotopes, trace elements, Caribbean Sea
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-P-OZ Paleo-Oceanography
Refereed: No
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2008 16:51
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2018 13:40

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