Palaeoclimatology (Communication arising)

Tropical temperatures in greenhouse episodes


Reconstruction from oxygen-isotope data of global sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) that prevailed during periods when greenhouse-gas levels were higher than at present (that is, in the early Eocene and Cretaceous epochs) indicates that temperatures were significantly warmer than present in mid- to high latitudes, but similar to or slightly cooler in the tropics. However, Pearson and colleagues1 claim, on the basis of oxygen-isotope data from planktonic foraminifers recovered from clay beds in Tanzania and other localities, that the tropics were warm during the Eocene, attributing the discrepancy between these and previous tropical SST estimates to the effects of diagenetic overprinting of the latter. Here we note some potential flaws in their interpretation of the new oxygen-isotope data.

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Correspondence to James C. Zachos.

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Zachos, J., Arthur, M., Bralower, T. et al. Tropical temperatures in greenhouse episodes. Nature 419, 897–898 (2002).

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