Petra Dekens


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Photo of Petra Dekens
Chair of Earth & Climate Science Dept., Associate Professor of Oceanography
Paleoceanography, Paleoclimatology
(415) 338-6015


Direct temperature measurements only extend about two hundred years, during which time climate variations were relatively minor. Paleoclimate research is therefore required to put the global warming trend of the last decades within the context of the Earth’s dynamic climate system.  My primary research interest is understanding the mechanisms which sustained a warm climate in the early Pliocene, the most recent period of time when Earth’s temperatures were warmer than they are today for a sustained period of time.  My records of sea surface temperatures (SST) in the tropical and sub-tropical oceans have demonstrated that the worlds upwelling regions, which are very biologically productive and characterized by cool temperatures in the modern ocean, were significantly warmer during the early Pliocene compared to today (water off of California was 9°C warmer!).  As I establish my lab here at SFSU I plan to pursue several research questions to further improve our understanding of the warm pliocene: Are warmer upwelling regions during the early Pliocene associated with major changes in biological productivity?  Are global upwelling regions linked through changes in the ventilated thermocline?  What are the meridional and zonal SST gradients off the Calif