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Keywords:

  • alkenones;
  • U37K′;
  • interlaboratory comparison

[1] Measurements of the U37K′ index and the absolute abundance of alkenones in marine sediments are increasingly used in paleoceanographic research as proxies of past sea surface temperature and haptophyte (mainly coccolith-bearing species) primary productivity, respectively. An important aspect of these studies is to be able to compare reliably data obtained by different laboratories from a wide variety of locations. Hence the intercomparability of data produced by the research community is essential. Here we report results from an anonymous interlaboratory comparison study involving 24 of the leading laboratories that carry out alkenone measurements worldwide. The majority of laboratories produce data that are intercomparable within the considered confidence limits. For the measurement of alkenone concentrations, however, there are systematic biases between laboratories, which might be related to the techniques employed to quantify the components. The maximum difference between any two laboratories for any two single measurements of U37K′ in sediments is estimated, with a probability of 95%, to be <2.1°C. In addition, the overall within-laboratory precision for the U37K′ temperature estimates is estimated to be <1.6°C (95% probability). Similarly, from the analyses of alkenone concentrations the interlaboratory reproducibility is estimated at 32%, and the repeatability is estimated at 24%. The former is compared to a theoretical estimate of reproducibility and found to be excessively high. Hence there is certainly scope and a demonstrable need to improve reproducibility and repeatability of U37K′ and especially alkenone quantification data across the community of scientists involved in alkenone research.