Coral Paleoclimatology:
What can corals tell us about climate?

Welcome to NOAA's educational coral paleoclimatology website!

Coral core collection...


*Please note that you can view a full screen, higher resolution version of most of the images on this website by clicking on the image.


View a coral core...


As part of NOAA's contribution to the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), this website has been created to provide information on coral paleoclimatology. The site is designed to inform scientific and general audiences about some of the important questions of modern climate variability and the uses of corals to understand past climate.

Data from a coral core...

Corals enable data on surface ocean conditions to be extended back beyond the instrumental record. This is crucial to our understanding of long term climate variability, which is helpful in determining whether modern changes are anomalous or simply part of a natural cycle.


Table of Contents:

Information on corals and climate:

Corals and Tropical Pacific climate variability: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Corals and the threat of global climate change

Collecting coral cores

Data from a few reefs around the world

Networks of coral sites

References and further reading

Mark Eakin's Coral Bibliography

Also find out more about:

General introduction to paleoclimatology

Where to find paleoclimate data

Current conditions of coral reefs around the world

Visit NOAA's El Niño site

What is the International Coral Reef Initiative?

Coral reefs are in serious decline globally, especially those near shallow shelves and dense populations. It has been estimated that 10 percent of the Earth's coral reefs have already been seriously degraded and about 60% of the remainder is seriously threatened. If this decline is unchecked, it will lead to the degradation of most of the world's reef resources during the next century.

The major threats to coral reefs are those resulting from human activities: sewage, industrial and agricultural pollution, excessive sediment releases into coastal waters and over exploitation of fisheries, especially with damaging practices. Then in 1998, there was the most damaging incidence of coral bleaching and death ever recorded. This event may be a portent of greater impacts from global climate change.

These problems are clearly identified in the United Nations Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, and in other international conventions and agreements (Convention for Sustainable Development, Convention for Biological Diversity, Convention on Small Island Developing States etc.). The role of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) is to catalyse the implementation of these calls for action for the benefit of peoples, coral reefs and related ecosystems.

ICRI is a unique environmental partnership that brings all the stakeholders together with the objective of sustainable use and conservation of coral reefs for future generations. ICRI is an informal mechanism that allows representatives of over 80 developing countries with coral reefs to sit in equal partnership with major donor countries and development banks, international environmental and development agencies, scientific associations, the private sector and NGOs to decide on the best strategies to conserve the world's coral reef resources. Activities include:

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Coral Paleoclimatology website by Heather Benway, NOAA Office of Global Programs, hosted by the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program. Please contact us if you have any comments and/or suggestions.