Assessing multi-site δ18O-climate calibrations of the coralline alga Clathromorphum across the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere

Jessica Y. Ng, Branwen Williams, Diane M. Thompson, Chloe Mayne, Jochen Halfar, Evan Edinger, Kathleen Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


An increased number of climate proxy records and more refined interpretation of proxy data are crucial to improve projections of future climate at high latitudes, where internal feedbacks amplify warming and established high-resolution climate archives are especially sparse. Encrusting coralline algae are being developed as a mid- to high-latitude marine climate archive. These long-lived algae form a solid high-Mg calcite skeleton with annual growth bands similar to those of trees and tropical corals. The oxygen isotope ratio of the algal skeleton (δ18Oalg) records local environmental and climatic factors, notably sea surface temperature and seawater δ18O. Here we assess the δ18Oalg–climate relationship in diverse environments across the algal habitat range utilizing two species of coralline algae from the genus Clathromorphum. Clathromorphum is widely distributed from the cold-temperate North Atlantic and Pacific to the Arctic Ocean and has recently yielded numerous climate reconstructions of up to 650 years in length. In this study, we calibrate δ18Oalg of four specimens to gridded temperature and salinity data, the latter a proxy for seawater δ18O. These specimens were collected from a variety of algal growth environments across the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere: two specimens from the Aleutian Archipelago, one from the Canadian Arctic, and one from the Gulf of Maine. Low winter temperatures and insolation restrict the months when algae record local climate in the δ18O of their skeletons; we therefore determine these response seasons by correlating monthly temperature and salinity anomalies with annual δ18Oalg anomalies at each site. We then average gridded data over months that correlate significantly (95% confidence interval) for regression with δ18Oalg. While the timing and nature of the climate signal vary across sites, we find significant relationships between δ18Oalg and either temperature or salinity averaged over the response season at three sites. Variation in local climatology among the four sites provides a physical explanation for calibration differences, compounded by uncertainties stemming from the proxy chronology, biological variability, temporal coverage, and sparse historical climate data. This work takes an essential step toward reconstructing high-latitude marine climate patterns with coralline algal δ18O and developing algae proxy system models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-290
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Coralline algae
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Salinity
  • Sea surface temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing multi-site δ18O-climate calibrations of the coralline alga Clathromorphum across the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this