Coral records thousands of years of climate change

Thermometer-based climate records started in 1850, so scientists have gone “back to nature” for sources of long-term climatic information to help them better understand climate change and rising sea levels.

University of Wollongong coastal geomorphologist Professor Colin Woodroffe and his team study coral fossils from coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean to reconstruct water temperature and climatic conditions in the region over the last 4,000 years.

By studying oxygen isotopes measurements from the skeletal bands in coral fossils they find on islands like Kiritimati (Christmas) Island in the Kirabiti group, Professor Woodroffe’s team has a “window” into thousands of years of climate data, with particular insight into El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability.

El Niño has a profound effect on the climate of Australia and the west coast of South America, and its influence extends into the Atlantic Ocean.

For more information: University of Wollongong,

Prof. Colin Woodroffe, Tel: + 61 2 42215490,