Multi-specimen and multi-site calibration of Aleutian coralline algal Mg/Ca to sea surface temperature

B. Williams*, J. Halfar, K. L. DeLong, S. Hetzinger, R. S. Steneck, D. E. Jacob

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Higher latitude oceanic and climatic reconstructions are needed to distinguish natural climate variability from anthropogenic warming in regions projected to experience significant increases in temperature during this century. Clathromorphum nereostratum is a long-lived coralline alga abundant along the Aleutian archipelago that records seasonal to centennial fluctuations in seawater temperatures in its high-Mg calcite skeleton. Thus, C. nereostratum is an important proxy archive to reconstruct past seawater temperature variability in this data-poor subarctic region. Here, we measured magnesium to calcium ratios (Mg/Ca) by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) along the growth axis in six live-collected specimens from three islands in the Aleutian archipelago to assess Mg/Ca reproducibility and to calibrate algal Mg/Ca against modern gridded sea surface temperature (SST) data products. The master Mg/Ca-SST transfer function, determined by averaging the algal Mg/Ca-SST from each island (n=6), resulted in a reconstruction error of ±0.45°C, a 31-46% reduction in error compared to the reconstruction error for a single alga. The master algal-SST record interpolated to monthly and annual resolution significantly varied with gridded SST data products (r2=0.98, p<0.0001, n=517 and r2=.27, p<0.0003, n=44, respectively) for the period from 1960 to 2003. Therefore, coralline algal Mg/Ca-derived SST reconstructions record absolute changes in past SST variability in the Aleutian archipelago. The transfer functions developed here can be applied to Mg/Ca records generated from long-lived specimens of C. nereostratum to reconstruct northern North Pacific and Bering Sea SST variability for the past several hundred years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-204
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


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