A Multicentury Stable Isotope Record from a New Caledonia Coral: Interannual and Decadal Sea Surface Temperature Variability in the Southwest Pacific Since 1657 AD

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New Caledonia, sea surface temperature, El Nino, South Pacific Convergence Zone, University of Michigan, coral

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A 335 year stable isotope record from a New Caledonia coral (22 degrees S, 166 degrees E) helps fill a large gap in historical climate reconstructions. Although the long-term cord delta(18)O-based sea surface temperature (SST) trend is one of warming, there are notable decadal fluctuations, especially in the early 18th and early 19th centuries. Mean annual SSTs between 1658 and 1900 are estimated to be similar to 0.3 degrees C lower than the 20th century average, with interdecadal excursions of 0.5 degrees-0.8 degrees C. Time series analyses of the coral isotope record reveals significant concentrations of variance in the El Nino band; an inderdecadal spectral peak is present, but its robustness requires additional statistical evaluation. A secular but irregular decrease in cord delta(13)C values begins in the mid-1800s and may reflect the anthropogenic perturbation of the carbon reservoir. These and other results indicate that the New Caledonia coral isotope record is a valuable source of information on southwest Pacific climate history.

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Paleoceanography, v. 13, no. 4, p. 412-426.