Precessional Forcing of Nutricline Dynamics in the Equatorial Atlantic

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Science  17 Aug 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4970, pp. 766-769
DOI: 10.1126/science.249.4970.766


Climate control of nutricline depth in the equatorial Atlantic can be monitored by variations in the abundance of the phytoplankton species Florisphaera profunda. A conceptual model, based on in situ evidence, associates high abundances of F. profunda with a deep nutricline and low abundances with a shallow nutricline. A 200,000-year record of F. profunda relative abundances, obtained from a deep-sea core sited beneath the region of maximum equatorial divergence at 10°W, has 52 percent of its variance centered on the 23,000-year precessional band. Cross-spectral analysis between the signals of F. profunda and sea-surface temperature, independently derived from zooplankton species, shows their 23,000-year cycles to be coherent and nearly in phase. Abundance minima of F. profunda coincide with times of December perihelion, whereas abundance maxima coincide with June perihelion. These relations indicate that nutricline dynamics in the divergence region of the equatorial Atlantic are controlled by variations in the tropical easterlies, forced by the precessional component of orbital insolation, on time scales greater than 10,000 years.

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