Mid-Depth Circulation of the Subpolar North Atlantic During the Last Glacial Maximum

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Science  19 Feb 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5098, pp. 1148-1152
DOI: 10.1126/science.259.5098.1148


Holocene and glacial carbon isotope data of benthic foraminifera from shallow to mid-depth cores from the northeastern subpolar Atlantic show that this region was strongly stratified, with carbon-13—enriched glacial North Atlantic intermediate water (GNAIW) overlying carbon-13—depleted Southern Ocean water (SOW). The data suggest that GNAIW originated north of the polar front and define GNAIW end-member carbon isotope values for studies of water-mass mixing in the open Atlantic. Identical carbon isotope values in the core of GNAIW and below the subtropical thermocline are consistent with rapid cycling of GNAIW through the northern Atlantic. The high carbon isotope values below the thermocline indicate that enhanced nutrient leakage in response to increased ventilation may have extended into intermediate waters. Geochemical box models show that the atmospheric carbon dioxide response to nutrient leakage that results from an increase in ventilation rate may be greater than the response to nutrient redistribution by conversion of North Atlantic deep water into GNAIW. These results underscore the potential rule of Atlantic Ocean circulation changes in influencing past atmospheric carbon dioxide values.