EGU General Assembly 2020
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Absolute temperature seasonality from skeletal carbonates—Techniques and limitations of oxygen- and clumped isotope analyses

Niels de Winter1,2, Rob Witbaard3, Clemens Ullmann4, Anne Soerensen5, Nicolas Thibault6, Inigo Müller1, Ilja Kocken1, Philippe Claeys2, and Martin Ziegler1
Niels de Winter et al.
  • 1Dept. of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2AMGC research group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
  • 3Dept. of Estuarine and Delta Systems, NIOZ, Yerseke, the Netherlands
  • 4Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
  • 5Trap Danmark, Hoersholm, Denmark
  • 6Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

The carbonate skeletons of marine organisms are unique archives for high-resolution climate reconstructions. Well-preserved specimens potentially allow for seasonal to even daily scale variability reconstructions of climate and environment  in deep time (pre-Quaternary), providing otherwise unavailable snapshots of climate variability during greenhouse periods (e.g. Steuber et al., 2005; Ivany et al., 2008; de Winter et al., 2017). However, uncertainties on past seawater compositions hamper use of the popular stable oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O) as proxy for paleotemperature reconstructions. The use of the independent carbonate clumped isotope (Δ47) paleothermometer, which is insensitive to changes in seawater composition, on these promising fossil archives is complicated because of sample size limitations (Fernandez et al., 2017; Bernasconi et al., 2018).

In an attempt to circumvent these issues and use the δ18O and Δ47 measurements jointly for accurate seasonal reconstructions of temperature and seawater isotope composition, we present a novel data reduction approach that combines Δ47 measurements of small (~100 µg) serially sampled aliquots to estimate summer and winter temperatures in mollusk shell records. When applied on Δ47 and δ18O measurements in the same specimens, combined with accurate shell chronologies, this approach reconstructs seasonal differences in temperature and seawater composition in a coastal site from the Campanian (Late Cretaceous) high-latitudes.

To test the robustness of these reconstructions, we apply different approaches of combining δ18O and Δ47 data on a wide range of simulated data representing various scenarios of variability in growth rate, temperature and sea water composition typical for the natural shallow marine environments of carbonate-producers. This approach tests how choices such as sampling resolution and the method of data collection and reduction influence the accuracy and reproducibility of (paleo)seasonality reconstructions in these scenarios.

Finally, we present preliminary data of δ18O and Δ47 analyses on bivalve specimens grown under controlled temperature conditions that allow us to calibrate the techniques above for temperature reconstructions. Together, these investigations pave the way for accurate, high-resolution climate reconstructions in deep time. These reconstructions provide valuable information on the dynamics of greenhouse climates, against which climate models can be compared to improve predictions of future climate.


Bernasconi, S. M., et al. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 19(9), 2895–2914, 2018.

Fernandez, A. et al. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 18(12), 4375–4386, 2017.

Ivany et al. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 120(5–6), 659–678, 2008.

Steuber, T. et al. Nature, 437(7063), 1341–1344, 2005.

de Winter, N. J. et al. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 485, 740–760, 2017.

How to cite: de Winter, N., Witbaard, R., Ullmann, C., Soerensen, A., Thibault, N., Müller, I., Kocken, I., Claeys, P., and Ziegler, M.: Absolute temperature seasonality from skeletal carbonates—Techniques and limitations of oxygen- and clumped isotope analyses, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-2842,, 2020

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