Decadal timescale shift in the ^14C record of a central equatorial Pacific coral

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University of Arizona

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Coral skeletal radiocarbon records reflect seawater Δ^14C and are useful for reconstructing the history of water mass movement and ventilation in the tropical oceans. Here, we reconstructed the inter-annual variability in central equatorial Pacific surface water Δ^14C from 1922–1956 using near-monthly 14C measurements in a Porites sp. coral skeleton (FI5A) from the windward side of Fanning Island (3°54'32"N, 159°18'88"W). The most pronounced feature in this record is a large, positive shift in the Δ^14C between 1947 and 1956 that coincides with the switch of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) from a positive to a negative phase in the mid-1940s. Although the absolute Δ^14C values from 1950–1955 in FI5A differ from the Δ^14C values of another coral core collected from the opposite side of the island, both records show a large, positive shift in their Δ^14C records at that time. The relative increase in the Δ^14C of each record is consistent with the premise that a common mechanism is controlling the Δ^14C records within each coral record. Overall, the Fanning Δ^14C data support the notion that a significant amount of subtropical seawater is arriving at the Equator, but does not allow us to determine the mechanism for its transport.




A. G. Grottoli et al, "Decadal timescale shift in the ^14C record of a central equatorial Pacific coral," Radiocarbon 45 (2003): 91-99.