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Comparative sclerochronology of modern and mid-Pliocene (c. 3.5 Ma) Aequipecten opercularis (Mollusca, Bivalvia) : an insight into past and future climate change in the North-East Atlantic region

Johnson, Andrew L.A.; Hickson, Jonathan A.; Bird, Annemarie; Schone, Bernd R.; Balson, Peter S.; Heaton, Timothy H.E.; Williams, Mark. 2009 Comparative sclerochronology of modern and mid-Pliocene (c. 3.5 Ma) Aequipecten opercularis (Mollusca, Bivalvia) : an insight into past and future climate change in the North-East Atlantic region. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 284 (3-4). 164-179. 10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.09.022

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Abstract/Summary

Records of environment contained within the accretionarily deposited tissues of fossil organisms afford a means of detailed reconstruction of past climates and hence of rigorous testing of numerical climate models. We identify the environmental factors controlling oxygen and carbon stable-isotopic composition, and microgrowth-increment size, in the shell of modern examples of the Queen Scallop, Aequipecten opercularis. This understanding is then applied in interpretation of data from mid-Pliocene A. opercularis from eastern England. On the basis of oxygen-isotope evidence we conclude that winter minimum seafloor temperature was similar to present values (typically 6–7 °C) in the adjacent southern North Sea and that summer maximum seafloor temperature was a few degrees lower than present values (typically 16–17 °C). This contrasts with evidence from other proxies that winter and summer temperatures were higher than present. The pattern of seasonal variation in microgrowth-increment size suggests the existence of intense thermal stratification in summer. We therefore conclude that summer surface temperatures were much higher (maxima well over 20 °C) than those recorded isotopically on the seafloor and that the annual range of surface temperature (probably over 14 °C) was greater than now at the times in the mid-Pliocene when the investigated A. opercularis were alive. Taken in conjunction with other proxy evidence of warmer winters as well as summers, the data point to substantial fluctuation (up to 10 °C) in winter minimum temperatures during the mid-Pliocene in the north-east Atlantic region. This fluctuation may be attributable to variation in the strength of the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift. Since the Pliocene has been widely used as a test-bed for numerical models of a greenhouse Earth, the results have implications for prediction of future climate in the north-east Atlantic region under the influence of anthropogenic global warming.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.09.022
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2009 > Climate change
ISSN: 0031-0182
Date made live: 16 Jun 2010 11:17
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/9997

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