Climate and Environmental Change in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean

Science Center Objects

This project documents paleoceanographic, climatic, and environmental changes in the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent land areas over the last 10,000 years. The paleoenvironmental data is used to determine rates of change in the past, and to better understand both the natural and anthropogenic factors that contribute to climate variability on inter-annual to millennial timescales.

Multicores onboard the research vessel Pelican

Multicores collected from the northern Gulf of Mexico while aboard the R/V Pelican in 2013. These cores are sampled at 5 mm increments and used to reconstruct sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Mexico over the past 1000 years. (Public domain.)

Paleoclimate Reconstruction from Marine and Lake Sediments

Highly-resolved records of past climate variability are increasingly important in light of the current need to differentiate between natural and anthropogenic climate change. Studies concentrate on the Holocene, the last 10,000 years. Analysis of microfossils, trace metal geochemistry, stable isotope geochemistry, and biomarkers sediment cores is performed at sub-millennial to decadal resolution in sediment cores from lakes and the deep ocean.









Lauren Toth preparing to drill a coral reef framework core

Lauren Toth preparing to drill a coral reef framework core from Pulaski Shoal, Dry Tortugas National Park. (Credit: Julie Richey, USGS. Public domain.)

Coral Reefs as Climate Archives

Coral reefs are sentinels of climate change, responding to changes in water temperature, ocean pH, pollution and land use change near the coasts. This part of the project ties in closely with the CREST Project within the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program, and aims to reconstruct changes temperature, ocean circulation, sea level and the history of reef formation.







vials containing total lipid extracts

Total lipid extracts from particulate matter filtered from the surface to 14 meters water depth in Lake Tulane, located in Highlands County, Florida. These samples are part of a modern calibration study in the lake. (Public domain.)

Paleoceanographic Proxy Calibration

A sediment trap time series (2008-2018) in the northern Gulf of Mexico is used to assess environmental controls on sediment flux, microfossil assemblages and the biogeochemistry of both molecular and calcium carbonate fossils. This information is used to improve calibrations, quantify uncertainties, and better understand the strengths and limitations of different paleoceanographic proxies in the Gulf of Mexico.