A Possible 20th-Century Slowdown of Southern Ocean Deep Water Formation

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Science  05 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5442, pp. 1132-1135
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5442.1132

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Chlorofluorocarbon-11 inventories for the deep Southern Ocean appear to confirm physical oceanographic and geochemical studies in the Southern Ocean, which suggest that no more than 5 × 106 cubic meters per second of ventilated deep water is currently being produced. This result conflicts with conclusions based on the distributions of the carbon-14/carbon ratio and a quasi-conservative property, PO4 *, in the deep sea, which seem to require an average of about 15 × 106cubic meters per second of Southern Ocean deep ventilation over about the past 800 years. A major reduction in Southern Ocean deep water production during the 20th century (from high rates during the Little Ice Age) may explain this apparent discordance. If this is true, a seesawing of deep water production between the northern Atlantic and Southern oceans may lie at the heart of the 1500-year ice-rafting cycle.

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