Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate variation in the tropical Pacific: coral provides proof

04.05.2004


The Younger Dryas period, about 12 000 years ago, was marked by a sharp cooling event in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures there fell by between 2 and 10°C. The East Antarctic in contrast experienced an episode of warming. Data have up to now been insufficient or too inconclusive to enable palaeoclimatologists to track this climatic event in the southern temperate regions and the tropics. An IRD researcher campaign took a 2 m drill core sample from the isle of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, found to contain a giant fossil coral of a single species, Diploastrea heliopora, well preserved in a condition of growth. The specimen age was estimated at between 12 449 and 11 719 calendar years, a span covering nearly the entire Younger Dryas. This unique fossil provides clear evidence of the spatial signature this major climatic cooling event left in the tropics.



Mineral skeleton growth of these corals is a steady few millimetres per year over many centuries, which offers a precise record of ancient environmental conditions. Fossil skeleton concentrations in chemical elements such as strontium or oxygen isotopes indicate the sea surface temperature (SST) on which they depended when the corals were alive. Corals of the genus Porites, which which grow by about 1 cm per year, are the type most used as paleothermometers, but the Diploastrea used in this study have the advantage of growing more slowly. Moreover, there is only one species of this marker, Diploastrea heliopora, which eliminates any inter-specific differences, always a source of uncertainty.

The IRD researchers, working with Australian and American colleagues (1), first compared SSTs, data obtained by way of Sr/Ca ratio analyses in the Diploastrea and modern Porites originating respectively from New Caledonia and Indonesia. Similarity of the figures obtained both validated the use of Diploastrea as a palaeothermometer and allowed calibration of the data acquired from this coral in modern times, before applying it as a palaeoclimatic marker on fossil forms from Vanuatu.


The temperature curves drawn from fossil Diploastrea data show that during the Younger Dryas period the STT around Vanuatu was on average 4.5°C lower than at present (2). The data furthermore indicate large interdecadal variations. The periods during which the SSTs were relatively warm coincides with annual amplitudes of about 3°C, similar to those currently observed in Vanuatu. However, cooler periods were marked by greater amplitudes, of about 5 to 6°C, like those observed at present in New Caledonia, 7 to 10° of latitude further South of Vanuatu. These data indicate an upward movement of the thermocline (3) and suggest that the Younger Dryas cooling resulted from compression of Pacific tropical waters towards the Equator.

In addition, coupled analysis of Sr/Ca and of 18O/16O isotope ratios at biannual and monthly time-scales provided information on the ocean-atmosphere exchanges operating during this period, and especially on the evaporation/precipitation ratio.
The 18O level in the corals depends on the SST and surface water salinity. It is an expression of seasonal variations linked with rainfall, poor in 18O compared with sea water. At present in Vanuatu, the sea surface 18O concentration and salinity declines as the temperature rises. This stems from the intense activity, during the Southern hemisphere summer, of the South Pacific trades convergence zone (SPTCZ) which brings strong precipitation. Conversely, in the South-West Pacific subtropical area, unaffected by rainfall coming from the SPTCZ, the SST and surface water salinity are positively correlated. This is why in the subtropical oceanic environments, where evaporation largely exceeds precipitation, the salinity and 18O concentration rise with the SST. This situation is similar to that observed in Vanuatu during the Younger Dryas period, but quite different to the present prevailing situation. The data drawn from Diploastrea samples therefore suggest strongly that the South Pacific Convergence Zone did not exist in the Younger Dryas. This climatic scenario is similar to conditions seen in the present during an El Niño event, during which the west Pacific warm pool contracts towards the Equator, the SPTCZ then moving towards the North to fuse with the intertropical convergence zone. These results should also lead to improvements in climatological modelling and to better understanding of ocean-atmosphere exchanges and the processes influencing the activity of convergence zones.

Mina Vilayleck – IRD

(1) IRD research unit UR055 “Palaeotropics”, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia and NSF Arizona AMS Facility, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
(2) This deviation is similar to the one observed in earlier studies made on Porites core samples from Vanuatu, but greater than the cooling calculated for the tropical Pacific zones closer to the Equator.
(3) Thermocline: a zone of steep temperature gradient within the oceanic water layer which marks the transition between warm surface waters and the colder waters at deeper levels.

Marie Guillaume | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ird.fr/fr/actualites/fiches/2004/fiche202.htm

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>