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Sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic
  • Trevor Underwood
Trevor Underwood

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Paleo and recent sea surface temperature (SST) measurements at six locations spanning the North Atlantic, from the northeastern North Atlantic off the British Isles to the Dry Tortugas in the southwest, were examined in order to determine whether a period of cooling was responsible for the die-off of elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata) on the reef off Broward County around six thousand years ago (6 Kya) and whether warming sea temperatures might contribute to their recovery. The paleo data show indications of a warm period between 13 Kya and 7 Kya, followed by cooling, probably due to orbital forcing arising from the coincidence of insolation maxima in the Milankovitch obliquity and axial precession cycles in the Northern hemisphere at that time, but the lack of paleo data in the immediate proximity of the reef makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions regarding the die-off of the corals. However, the marine SST data obtained from ships and buoys since 1870 raise questions about the presumed recent global warming. Annual average sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic show remarkable stability and consistency with little or no change over the 146 years between 1870 and 2015, despite large seasonal and latitudinal variation in response to differences in solar irradiance.