Uneven spatial sampling distorts reconstructions of Phanerozoic seawater temperature
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/4986
EDITED VERSION: https://doi.org/10.1130/G49132.1
UNESCO SUBJECT: 2506 Geología
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
Paleotemperature proxy records are widely used to reconstruct the global climate throughout the Phanerozoic and to test macroevolutionary hypotheses. However, the spatial distribution of these records varies through time. This is problematic because heat is unevenly distributed across Earth's surface. Consequently, heterogeneous spatial sampling of proxy data has the potential to bias reconstructed temperature curves. We evaluated the spatiotemporal evolution of sampling using a compilation of Phanerozoic δ18O data. We tested the influence of variable spatial coverage on global estimates of paleotemperature by sampling a steep “modern-type” latitudinal temperature gradient and a flattened “Eocene-type” gradient, based on the spatial distribution of δ18O samples. We show that global paleotemperature is overestimated in ∼70% of Phanerozoic stages. Perceived climatic trends for some intervals might be artifactually induced by shifts in paleolatitudinal sampling, with equatorward shifts in sampling concurring with warming trends, and poleward shifts concurring with cooling trends. Yet, the magnitude of some climatic perturbations might also be underestimated. For example, the observed Ordovician cooling trend may be underestimated due to an equatorward shift in sampling. Our findings suggest that while proxy records are vital for reconstructing Earth's paleotemperature in deep time, consideration of the spatial nature of these data is crucial to improving these reconstructions.
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