Skip to main content

Late Holocene Sea Temperatures along the Central California Coast

  • Terry L. Jones (a1) and Douglas J. Kennett (a2)

Mussel shells from central California coastal archaeological sites record changes in sea surface temperatures in the past 2000 years. Water temperatures, inferred from oxygen isotopes in the shells, were about 1°C cooler than present and stable between 2000 and 700 yr ago. Between about 700 and 500 yr ago, seasonal variation was greater than present, with extremes above and below historic levels. Water temperatures were 2–3°C cooler than today 500–300 yr ago. The interval of variable sea temperatures 700–500 yr ago partially coincided with an interval of drought throughout central California. A coincident disruption in human settlement along the coast suggests movements of people related to declining water sources. Quantities of fish bone in central coast middens dating to this same period are high relative to other periods, and the remains of northern anchovies, a species sensitive to changing oceanographic conditions, are also abundant. The continued use of local fisheries suggests that changes in settlement and diet were influenced more by drought than by a decrease in marine productivity, as fish provided a staple during an interval of low terrestrial productivity.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 1 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 50 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 18th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.