Ocean temperatures through the Phanerozoic reassessed. Academic Article uri icon


  • The oxygen isotope compositions of carbonate and phosphatic fossils hold the key to understanding Earth-system evolution during the last 500 million years. Unfortunately, the validity and interpretation of this record remain unsettled. Our comprehensive compilation of Phanerozoic 18O data for carbonate and phosphate fossils and microfossils (totaling 22,332 and 4615 analyses, respectively) shows rapid shifts best explained by temperature change. In calculating paleotemperatures, we apply a constant hydrosphere 18O, correct seawater 18O for ice volume and paleolatitude, and correct belemnite 18O values for 18O enrichment. Similar paleotemperature trends for carbonates and phosphates confirm retention of original isotopic signatures. Average low-latitude (30S-30N) paleotemperatures for shallow environments decline from 42.03.1C in the Early-to-Middle Ordovician to 35.62.4C for the Late Ordovician through the Devonian, then fluctuate around 25.13.5C from the Mississippian to today. The Early Triassic and Middle Cretaceous stand out as hothouse intervals. Correlations between atmospheric CO2 forcing and paleotemperature support CO2's role as a climate driver in the Paleozoic.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 7.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Grossman, E. L., & Joachimski, M. M.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Grossman, Ethan L||Joachimski, Michael M

publication date

  • January 2022