Abrupt changes in Antarctic Intermediate Water circulation over the past 25,000 years

TitleAbrupt changes in Antarctic Intermediate Water circulation over the past 25,000 years
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsPahnke, K, Goldstein, SL, Hemming, SR
JournalNature Geoscience

The circulation of Antarctic Intermediate Water is thought to make an important contribution to the global ocean-climate system, but the details of this interaction are not fully understood. Furthermore, the behaviour of Antarctic Intermediate Water under glacial and interglacial conditions is not well constrained. Here we present a 25,000-year-long record of neodymium isotopic variations-a tracer of water-mass mixing-from the middle depths of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Our data reveal abruptly enhanced northward advection of Antarctic Intermediate Water during periods of reduced North Atlantic overturning circulation during the last deglaciation. These events coincide with an increase in the formation of Antarctic Intermediate Water and warming in the southwest Pacific Ocean, which suggests a tight link with Southern Hemisphere climate. In contrast, the initial incursion of southern source water into the North Atlantic similar to 19,000 years ago coincided with weak Antarctic Intermediate Water formation in the Pacific and reduced overturning in the North Atlantic. We conclude that reduced competition at intermediate water depth at this time allowed expansion of Antarctic Intermediate Water into the North Atlantic. This early incursion of Antarctic Intermediate Water may have contributed to freshening of the North Atlantic, perhaps spurring the subsequent collapse of North Atlantic deep convection.