Deep Circulation of the North Atlantic over the Last 200,000 Years: Geochemical Evidence

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  19 Nov 1982:
Vol. 218, Issue 4574, pp. 784-787
DOI: 10.1126/science.218.4574.784


Variations in the cadmium/calcium ratio of North Atlantic Deep Water are recorded in the fossil shells of benthic foraminifera. The oceanic distribution of cadmium is similar to that of the nutrients, hence the cadmium/calcium ratio in shells records temporal variations in nutrient distributions. Data from a North Atlantic sediment core show that over the past 200,000 years there has been a continuous supply of nutrient-depleted waters into the deep North Atlantic. The intensity of this source relative to nutrient-enriched southern waters diminished by about a factor of 2 during severe glaciations. This evidence combined with carbon isotope data indicates that the continental carbon inventory may have been less variable than previously suggested.