Radioisotopes in Corals
Radioisotopes in corals can be used to date fossil corals and as ocean circulation tracers.
Dating of corals
Dating of fossil corals has been done using radioisotopes incorporated within the skeleton at the time of accretion (e.g., 14C, 228Ra, 210Pb) and those who have grown in since the time of accretion (e.g., 230Th, 231Pa) .
Edwards et al. (1986/87)  revolutionized dating of fossil corals when they developed techniques for measuring 230Th by using isotope dilution thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS). This method allows to make the measurement on a small amount of material (from tens to 250mg of coral) and reduces the uncertainty on the age estimates compared with the previously used alpha-spectrometry methods. Errors associated with 230Th age determination are generally less than 1% for samples that are 100 to 200,000 year old . Density bands can then be used to obtain annual time control on this "floating" chronologies.
Hermatypic Corals growing in the upper 40m of the temperate and tropical oceans (32°N to 32°S) record the input and spatial distribution of 14C in the oceans. These records provided evidence of past changes in surface-subsurface mixing , major current shifts , and changed in thermocline depth .
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- Druffel, E. R. M. (1997). Pulses of rapid ventilation in the north Atlantic surface ocean during the past century. Science, 275, 1454-1457.
- Druffel, E. R. M., & Griffin, S. (1993). Large variations of surface ocean radioacarbon: evidence of circulation changes in the southwestern Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research, 98, 20249-20259.
- Guilderson, T. P., & Schrag, D. P. (1998). Abrupt shift in subsurface temperatures in the tropical Pacific associated with recent changed in El Niño. Science, 281, 240-243.