A Smoothed time series of atmospheric (red) and oceanic (blue) pCO2 and ocean pH (green).  From Hawaii (Mauna Loa and Station Aloha).  From IPCC AR5 Chapter 3 (http://ipcc.ch/)

A Smoothed time series of atmospheric (red) and oceanic (blue) pCO2 and ocean pH (green).  From Hawaii (Mauna Loa and Station Aloha).  From IPCC AR5 Chapter 3 (http://ipcc.ch/)

Evolving bucket technology - for 100 years buckets like this were used to take measurements of sea surface temperature (see here for more)

Evolving bucket technology - for 100 years buckets like this were used to take measurements of sea surface temperature (see here for more)

Estimated Bias adjustment for global mean SST due to evolving technology of measurement. From Kent et al. (2016)

Estimated Bias adjustment for global mean SST due to evolving technology of measurement. From Kent et al. (2016)

X-rays of coral slabs from belize, showing annualy bands.  trenches show region sampled by microdrill.  From Fowell et al. 2016

X-rays of coral slabs from belize, showing annualy bands.  trenches show region sampled by microdrill.  From Fowell et al. 2016

Key Questions

1. Can we use geochemical techniques to reconstruct the magnitude of historical ocean acidification (OA)? What does this historical acidification tell us about how organisms have already been impacted by OA?

2. Can we use geochemical proxies to reconstruct sea surface temperature (SST) over the last 100-200 years? What does this tell us about the accuracy of bias corrections applied to historical measurements? 

How do we do it?

The magnitude of historic ocean acifidication (i.e. the last 100-200 years) at any one location is unknown due to the complete lack of seawater pH measurements beyond the 1980's.

While records of SST exist spanning this interval, they were rarely taken as part of a scientific endeavour and the technology used evolved considerably over time (from canvas to rubber buckets, to engine room intakes to satellites and Argo floats).  This causes large, and uncertain, biases (see here).

We apply cutting edge isotopic and trace element techniques to annually banded tropical corals and other marine carbonates (e.g. coralline algae) to reconstruct ocean pH (using d11B) and ocean temperature (Sr/Ca, Li/Mg, Sr-U) over the last 100-200 years.

By reconstructing the past environments experienced by these marine calcifiers we can also gain valuable insights into how historic climate and environment change has already influenced these important ecosystem engineers.

Recent Publications

Fowell, S.E., Sandford, K., Stewart, J.A., Castillo, K.D., Ries, J.B., and Foster, G.L., (2016) Intrareef variations in Li/Mg and Sr/Ca sea surface temperature proxies in the Caribbean reef-building coral Siderastrea siderea. Paleoceanography, 31 (doi: 10.1002/2016PA002968)

DeCarlo, T.M., Gaetani, G.A., Cohen, A.L. Alpert, A.E., Foster, G.L., Stewart, J. (2016) Coral Sr-U paleothermometry: unprecedented accuracy of seawater temperature reconstructions by understanding biomineralization, Paleoceanography, 31, (doi:10.1002/2015PA002908).