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Persistent multidecadal variability since the 15th century in the southern Barents Sea derived from annually resolved shell-based records

June 9, 2021

In the North Atlantic Ocean, multidecadal variability in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the past several centuries has largely been inferred through terrestrial proxies and decadally resolved marine proxies. Annually resolved proxy records from marine archives provide valuable insight into this variability, but are especially rare from high latitude environments, particularly for centennial timescales. We constructed continuous, absolutely dated records of shell growth (1449–2014 CE; 564 years) and oxygen isotope ratios (δ18Oshell; 1539–2014 CE; 476 years) from shells of the bivalve Arctica islandica from coastal northern Norway, a location sensitive to large-scale North Atlantic Ocean dynamics. An annual (January–December) SST reconstruction derived from δ18Oshell for the past five centuries suggests an increase of at least 2°C from the mid-18th century to 2014. The SST reconstruction correlates significantly with instrumental records and with other proxy reconstructions in the southern Barents Sea region. Spectral analysis of the shell growth and isotope records supports evidence for Atlantic multidecadal variability (65–80 year periodicity) extending into polar and subpolar latitudes for the past five centuries. These results provide additional evidence that multidecadal variability in SSTs are a persistent feature of the North Atlantic marine system.