Research Article

Climate Impact of Late Quaternary Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Variations

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Science  08 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5485, pp. 1719-1724
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5485.1719

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Magnesium/calcium data from planktonic foraminifera in equatorial Pacific sediment cores demonstrate that tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were 2.8° ± 0.7°C colder than the present at the last glacial maximum. Glacial-interglacial temperature differences as great as 5°C are observed over the last 450 thousand years. Changes in SST coincide with changes in Antarctic air temperature and precede changes in continental ice volume by about 3 thousand years, suggesting that tropical cooling played a major role in driving ice-age climate. Comparison of SST estimates from eastern and western sites indicates that the equatorial Pacific zonal SST gradient was similar or somewhat larger during glacial episodes. Extraction of a salinity proxy from the magnesium/calcium and oxygen isotope data indicates that transport of water vapor into the western Pacific was enhanced during glacial episodes.

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