Marine iron–manganese oxide coatings occur in many shallow and deep-water areas of the global ocean and can form in three ways: 1) Fe–Mn crusts can precipitate from seawater onto rocks on seamounts; 2) Fe–Mn nodules can form on the sediment surface around a nucleus by diagenetic processes in sediment pore water; 3) encrustations can precipitate from hydrothermal fluids. These oxide coatings have been growing for thousands to tens of millions of years. They represent a vast archive of how oceans have changed, including variations of climate, ocean currents, geological activity, erosion processes on land, and even anthropogenic impact. A growing toolbox of age-dating methods and element and isotopic signatures are being used to exploit these archives.

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