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Keywords:

  • Atlantic Warm Pool;
  • Atlantic multidecadal variability;
  • Little Ice Age;
  • Sr/Ca;
  • coral;
  • sea surface temperature

[1] Accurate low-latitude sea surface temperature (SST) records that predate the instrumental era are needed to put recent warming in the context of natural climate variability and to evaluate the persistence of lower frequency climate variability prior to the instrumental era and the possible influence of anthropogenic climate change on this variability. Here we present a 235-year-long SST reconstruction based on annual growth rates (linear extension) of three colonies of the Atlantic coralSiderastrea sidereasampled at two sites on the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, located within the Atlantic Warm Pool (AWP). AWP SSTs vary in concert the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), a basin-wide, quasiperiodic (∼60–80 years) oscillation of North Atlantic SSTs. We demonstrate that the annual linear growth rates of all three coral colonies are significantly inversely correlated with SST. We calibrate annual linear growth rates to SST between 1900 and 1960 AD. The linear correlation coefficient over the calibration period is r = −0.77 and −0.66 over the instrumental record (1860–2008 AD). We apply our calibration to annual linear growth rates to extend the SST record to 1775 AD and show that multidecadal SST variability has been a persistent feature of the AWP, and likely, of the North Atlantic over this time period. Our results imply that tropical Atlantic SSTs remained within 1°C of modern values during the past 225 years, consistent with a previous reconstruction based on coral growth rates and with most estimates based on the Mg/Ca of planktonic foraminifera from marine sediments.