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Brain coral in the Red Sea.

Corals Reveal Past Climate

WHOI paleoclimatologist Konrad Hughen studies the history of Earth's changing climate—using corals. The tiny living coral animals, known as polyps, lay down a new layer of calcium carbonate skeleton each year, just as trees produce annual growth rings. By analyzing the chemical make-up of cores he extracts from coral colonies, Hughen can estimate how water temperatures have changed over the past several hundred years. Hughen normally drills cores from fast-growing Porites species, but the skeletons of large brain corals such as this Red Sea Diploria also contain a history of climate change. (Photo Konrad Hughen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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