Eastern Pacific sea surface temperature since 1600 A.D. The δ18O record of climate variability in Galápagos Corals

Robert B. Dunbar, Gerard M. Wellington, Mitchell W. Colgan, Peter W. Glynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

316 Scopus citations


We measured stable oxygen isotope ratios and skeletal growth rates in the massive corals Pavona clavus and P. gigantea from the west coast of Isabela Island, Galapagos, to assess interannual to decadal climate variability in the eastern Pacific. Comparisons of instrumental data sets show that sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Galapagos region are representative of a broad portion of the eastern equatorial Pacific. The P. gigantea isotope record is nearly monthly in resolution, spans the period 1961-1982, and shows strong correlation with a Galapagos instrumental SST record. Cross-spectral analysis shows that SST can explain greater than 80% of the variance in δ18O at both the annual cycle and within the high-frequency portion of the ENSO band (3-5 years). The P. clavus record is annual in resolution, extends from 1587 to 1953 A.D., and was obtained from a 10-m diameter colony preserved within the Urvina Bay uplift. The isotopic record appears to be a very good, but not perfect, indicator of ENSO events. The dominant oscillatory modes, both within the ENSO and interdecadal frequency bands, shift to shorter periods from the early to middle 1700s and again from the middle to late 1800s. This may reflect major reorganizations within the tropical ocean-atmosphere system and suggests that tropical Pacific climate variability is linked across timescales ranging from years to decades. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-315
Number of pages25
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology


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