Some features of this site are not compatible with your browser. Install Opera Mini to better experience this site. Oxygen is one of the most significant keys to deciphering past climates. Oxygen comes in heavy and light varieties, or isotopes, which are useful for paleoclimate research. Like all elements, oxygen is made up of a nucleus of protons and neutrons, surrounded by a cloud of electrons. All oxygen atoms have 8 protons, but the nucleus might contain 8, 9, or 10 neutrons.
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Oxygen isotope ratio cycles are cyclical variations in the ratio of the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 18 to the abundance of oxygen with an atomic mass of 16 present in some substances, such as polar ice or calcite in ocean core samples , measured with the isotope fractionation. The ratio is linked to water temperature of ancient oceans, which in turn reflects ancient climates. Cycles in the ratio mirror climate changes in geologic history. Oxygen chemical symbol O has three naturally occurring isotopes : 16 O, 17 O , and 18 O , where the 16, 17 and 18 refer to the atomic mass. The most abundant is 16 O, with a small percentage of 18 O and an even smaller percentage of 17 O.