Alpert Alice

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  • Article
    Mid-Holocene, coral-based sea surface temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic
    (American Geophysical Union, 2019-05-31) Rodriguez, Luis G. ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Ramirez, Wilson ; Oppo, Delia W. ; Pourmand, Ali ; Edwards, R. Lawrence ; Alpert, Alice ; Mollica, Nathaniel R.
    The Holocene is considered a period of relative climatic stability, but significant proxy data‐model discrepancies exist that preclude consensus regarding the postglacial global temperature trajectory. In particular, a mid‐Holocene Climatic Optimum, ~9,000 to ~5,000 years BP, is evident in Northern Hemisphere marine sediment records, but its absence from model simulations raises key questions about the ability of the models to accurately simulate climate and seasonal biases that may be present in the proxy records. Here we present new mid‐Holocene sea surface temperature (SST) data from the western tropical Atlantic, where twentieth‐century temperature variability and amplitude of warming track the twentieth‐century global ocean. Using a new coral thermometer Sr‐U, we first developed a temporal Sr‐U SST calibration from three modern Atlantic corals and validated the calibration against Sr‐U time series from a fourth modern coral. Two fossil corals from the Enriquillo Valley, Dominican Republic, were screened for diagenesis, U‐series dated to 5,199 ± 26 and 6,427 ± 81 years BP, respectively, and analyzed for Sr/Ca and U/Ca, generating two annually resolved Sr‐U SST records, 27 and 17 years long, respectively. Average SSTs from both corals were significantly cooler than in early instrumental (1870–1920) and late instrumental (1965–2016) periods at this site, by ~0.5 and ~0.75 °C, respectively, a result inconsistent with the extended mid‐Holocene warm period inferred from sediment records. A more complete sampling of Atlantic Holocene corals can resolve this issue with confidence and address questions related to multidecadal and longer‐term variability in Holocene Atlantic climate.
  • Article
    Comparison of equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature variability and trends with Sr/Ca records from multiple corals
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2016-02-06) Alpert, Alice ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Oppo, Delia W. ; DeCarlo, Thomas M. ; Gove, Jamison M. ; Young, Charles W.
    Coral Sr/Ca is widely used to reconstruct past ocean temperatures. However, some studies report different Sr/Ca-temperature relationships for conspecifics on the same reef, with profound implications for interpretation of reconstructed temperatures. We assess whether these differences are attributable to small-scale oceanographic variability or “vital effects” associated with coral calcification and quantify the effect of intercolony differences on temperature estimates and uncertainties. Sr/Ca records from four massive Porites colonies growing on the east and west sides of Jarvis Island, central equatorial Pacific, were compared with in situ logger temperatures spanning 2002–2012. In general, Sr/Ca captured the occurrence of interannual sea surface temperature events but their amplitude was not consistently recorded by any of the corals. No long-term trend was identified in the instrumental data, yet Sr/Ca of one coral implied a statistically significant cooling trend while that of its neighbor implied a warming trend. Slopes of Sr/Ca-temperature regressions from the four different colonies were within error, but offsets in mean Sr/Ca rendered the regressions statistically distinct. Assuming that these relationships represent the full range of Sr/Ca-temperature calibrations in Jarvis Porites, we assessed how well Sr/Ca of a nonliving coral with an unknown Sr/Ca-temperature relationship can constrain past temperatures. Our results indicate that standard error of prediction methods underestimate the actual error as we could not reliably reconstruct the amplitude or frequency of El Niño–Southern Oscillation events as large as ± 2°C. Our results underscore the importance of characterizing the full range of temperature-Sr/Ca relationships at each study site to estimate true error.
  • Article
    Twentieth century warming of the tropical Atlantic captured by Sr-U paleothermometry
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2017-02-16) Alpert, Alice ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Oppo, Delia W. ; DeCarlo, Thomas M. ; Gaetani, Glenn A. ; Hernandez-Delgado, Edwin A. ; Winter, Amos ; Gonneea, Meagan E.
    Coral skeletons are valuable archives of past ocean conditions. However, interpretation of coral paleotemperature records is confounded by uncertainties associated with single-element ratio thermometers, including Sr/Ca. A new approach, Sr-U, uses U/Ca to constrain the influence of Rayleigh fractionation on Sr/Ca. Here we build on the initial Pacific Porites Sr-U calibration to include multiple Atlantic and Pacific coral genera from multiple coral reef locations spanning a temperature range of 23.15–30.12°C. Accounting for the wintertime growth cessation of one Bermuda coral, we show that Sr-U is strongly correlated with the average water temperature at each location (r2 = 0.91, P < 0.001, n = 19). We applied the multispecies spatial calibration between Sr-U and temperature to reconstruct a 96 year long temperature record at Mona Island, Puerto Rico, using a coral not included in the calibration. Average Sr-U derived temperature for the period 1900–1996 is within 0.12°C of the average instrumental temperature at this site and captures the twentieth century warming trend of 0.06°C per decade. Sr-U also captures the timing of multiyear variability but with higher amplitude than implied by the instrumental data. Mean Sr-U temperatures and patterns of multiyear variability were replicated in a second coral in the same grid box. Conversely, Sr/Ca records from the same two corals were inconsistent with each other and failed to capture absolute sea temperatures, timing of multiyear variability, or the twentieth century warming trend. Our results suggest that coral Sr-U paleothermometry is a promising new tool for reconstruction of past ocean temperatures.
  • Article
    Repeat bleaching of a central Pacific coral reef over the past six decades (1960–2016)
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2018-11-08) Barkley, Hannah C. ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Mollica, Nathaniel R. ; Brainard, Russell E. ; Rivera, Hanny E. ; DeCarlo, Thomas M. ; Lohmann, George P. ; Drenkard, Elizabeth J. ; Alpert, Alice ; Young, Charles W. ; Vargas-Ángel, Bernardo ; Lino, Kevin C. ; Oliver, Thomas A. ; Pietro, Kathryn R. ; Luu, Victoria
    The oceans are warming and coral reefs are bleaching with increased frequency and severity, fueling concerns for their survival through this century. Yet in the central equatorial Pacific, some of the world’s most productive reefs regularly experience extreme heat associated with El Niño. Here we use skeletal signatures preserved in long-lived corals on Jarvis Island to evaluate the coral community response to multiple successive heatwaves since 1960. By tracking skeletal stress band formation through the 2015-16 El Nino, which killed 95% of Jarvis corals, we validate their utility as proxies of bleaching severity and show that 2015-16 was not the first catastrophic bleaching event on Jarvis. Since 1960, eight severe (>30% bleaching) and two moderate (<30% bleaching) events occurred, each coinciding with El Niño. While the frequency and severity of bleaching on Jarvis did not increase over this time period, 2015–16 was unprecedented in magnitude. The trajectory of recovery of this historically resilient ecosystem will provide critical insights into the potential for coral reef resilience in a warming world.
  • Article
    Coral Sr-U thermometry
    (John WIley & Sons, 2016-06-11) DeCarlo, Thomas M. ; Gaetani, Glenn A. ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Foster, Gavin L. ; Alpert, Alice ; Stewart, Joseph A.
    Coral skeletons archive past climate variability with unrivaled temporal resolution. However, extraction of accurate temperature information from coral skeletons has been limited by “vital effects,” which confound, and sometimes override, the temperature dependence of geochemical proxies. We present a new approach to coral paleothermometry based on results of abiogenic precipitation experiments interpreted within a framework provided by a quantitative model of the coral biomineralization process. DeCarlo et al. (2015a) investigated temperature and carbonate chemistry controls on abiogenic partitioning of Sr/Ca and U/Ca between aragonite and seawater and modeled the sensitivity of skeletal composition to processes occurring at the site of calcification. The model predicts that temperature can be accurately reconstructed from coral skeleton by combining Sr/Ca and U/Ca ratios into a new proxy, which we refer to hereafter as the Sr-U thermometer. Here we test the model predictions with measured Sr/Ca and U/Ca ratios of 14 Porites sp. corals collected from the tropical Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea, with a subset also analyzed using the boron isotope (δ11B) pH proxy. Observed relationships among Sr/Ca, U/Ca, and δ11B agree with model predictions, indicating that the model accounts for the key features of the coral biomineralization process. By calibrating to instrumental temperature records, we show that Sr-U captures 93% of mean annual temperature variability (26–30°C) and has a standard deviation of prediction of 0.5°C, compared to 1°C using Sr/Ca alone. The Sr-U thermometer may offer significantly improved reliability for reconstructing past ocean temperatures from coral skeletons.
  • Thesis
    Little Ice Age climate in the Western Tropical Atlantic inferred from coral geochemical proxies
    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2016-09) Alpert, Alice
    Paleoclimate archives place the short instrumental record of climate variability in a longer temporal context and allow better understanding of the rate, nature and extent by which anthropogenic warming will impact natural and human systems. The ocean is a key component of the climate system and records of past ocean variability are thus essential for characterizing natural variability and quantifying climate sensitivity to radiative forcing. Coral skeletons are high-resolution archives of tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs), but inconsistencies call the accuracy of existing coral proxy records into question. In this thesis, I first quantify the errors associated with the traditional coral thermometer, Sr/Ca, by comparing in situ logged SST with Sr/Ca-derived SST in four corals on the same reef. I show that intercolony disparities in mean Sr/Ca, amplitude of variability, and trend are not due to differences in water temperature, but rather to “vital effects” that result in a ± 2 ̊C uncertainty on reconstructed SST. I then expand, refine, and test a new paleothermometer, Sr-U, across multiple coral species and through time. I show that Sr-U captures spatial SST variability with an uncertainty of ± 0.6 ̊C. When applied to two corals outside of the calibration, Sr-U accurately captures the mean SST and the 20th century trend in the Western Tropical Atlantic. Finally, I apply Sr-U to a coral from the Little Ice Age (LIA) to address uncertainties in the magnitude of western tropical Atlantic cooling during a 95-year period spanning 1465-1560. Results suggest the region was 1.1 ̊C±0.6°C cooler than the 1958-1988 mean, but within error of early 20th century SST at this site. Critically, several periods of warmth, equivalent to the 1958-1988 mean, occurred during a solar minimum that is widely believed to have been a cool period of the LIA. My results indicate that Sr/Ca exaggerates the actual cooling by almost 3 °C. My record demonstrates the value of Sr-U and highlights the need for continuous accurate SST records to better constrain the amplitude, drivers, and mechanisms of LIA tropical climate change.