300 years of sclerosponge thermometry shows global warming has exceeded 1.5 °C

Malcolm T. McCulloch, Amos Winter, Clark E. Sherman, Julie A. Trotter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Anthropogenic emissions drive global-scale warming yet the temperature increase relative to pre-industrial levels is uncertain. Using 300 years of ocean mixed-layer temperature records preserved in sclerosponge carbonate skeletons, we demonstrate that industrial-era warming began in the mid-1860s, more than 80 years earlier than instrumental sea surface temperature records. The Sr/Ca palaeothermometer was calibrated against ‘modern’ (post-1963) highly correlated (R2 = 0.91) instrumental records of global sea surface temperatures, with the pre-industrial defined by nearly constant (<±0.1 °C) temperatures from 1700 to the early 1860s. Increasing ocean and land-air temperatures overlap until the late twentieth century, when the land began warming at nearly twice the rate of the surface oceans. Hotter land temperatures, together with the earlier onset of industrial-era warming, indicate that global warming was already 1.7 ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2020. Our result is 0.5 °C higher than IPCC estimates, with 2 °C global warming projected by the late 2020s, nearly two decades earlier than expected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number2
Early online date5 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


Dive into the research topics of '300 years of sclerosponge thermometry shows global warming has exceeded 1.5 °C'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this