Millennial-scale changes in North Atlantic circulation since the last glaciation

TitleMillennial-scale changes in North Atlantic circulation since the last glaciation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsMarchitto, TM, Curry, WB, Oppo, DW
Date PublishedJun 11
Accession NumberWOS:000074150100046

Ocean circulation is closely linked to climate change on glacial-interglacial and shorter timescales. Extensive reorganizations in the circulation of deep and intermediate-depth waters in the Atlantic Ocean have been hypothesized for both the last glaciation(1-6) and the subsequent Younger Dryas cold interval(3,6-10), but there has been little palaeoceanographic study of the subtropical gyres(11-13). These gyres are the dominant oceanic features of wind-driven circulation, and as such they reflect changes in climate and are a significant control on nutrient cycling and, possible, atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Here we present Cd/Ca ratios in the shells of benthic foraminifera from the Bahama banks that confirm previous suggestions(11,12) that nutrient concentrations in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre were much lower during the Last Glacial Maximum than they are today (up to 50% lower according to our data). These contrasting nutrient burdens imply much shorter residence times for waters within the thermocline of the Last Glacial Maximum. Below the glacial thermocline, nutrient concentrations were reduced owing to the presence of Glacial North Atlantic Intermediate Water. A high-resolution Cd/Ca record from an intermediate depth indicates decreased nutrient concentrations during the Younger Dryas interval as well, mirroring opposite changes at a nearby deep site(3,9). Together, these observations suggest that the formation of deep and intermediate waters-North Atlantic Deep Water and Glacial North Atlantic Intermediate Water, respectively-wax and wane alternately on both orbital and millennial timescales.