Glacier Oxygen-18 Content and Pleistocene Ocean Temperatures

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Science  24 Oct 1969:
Vol. 166, Issue 3904, pp. 499-502
DOI: 10.1126/science.166.3904.499


The mean oxygen-18 content of continental ice sheets during the last glacial maximum is estimated to δO18=-30 per mille or less, and the consequent change in the isotopic composition of the oceans at that time to 1.2 per mille or more. This means that at least 70 percent of the oxygen-18 variations found in shells of planktonic foraminifera from deep-sea cores between times of glacial maximums and minimums are due to isotopic changes in ocean water, and at most 30 percent to changes in ocean surface temperature. Hence, Emiliani's "paleotemperature" curve rather depicts the amount of ice on the continents in excess of that present today. In this sense it may be renamed a "paleoglaciation" curve.

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