Quaternary Deepwater Paleoceanography

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Science  24 Aug 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4971, pp. 863-870
DOI: 10.1126/science.249.4971.863


During the past decade, geochemical paleoceanographers have begun to explore the changes in the circulation of the deep ocean that occurred during the glacial-interglacial cycles of the earth's recent history. The deep ocean was significantly colder during the glacial maximum. The distributions of biologically utilized elements (such as carbon and phosphorus) were significantly different as well; higher concentrations of these elements occurred in the deep (>2500 meters depth) North Atlantic, and lower concentrations occurred in the upper (<2500 meters depth) waters of the North Atlantic and possibly in all of the major ocean basins. In contrast, relatively subtle changes have been observed in the radiocarbon ages of deep waters. Slow deepwater changes are statistically linked to variations in the earth's orbit, but rapid changes in deepwater circulation also have occurred. Deepwater chemistry and circulation changes may control the variability in atmospheric CO2 levels that have been documented from studies of air bubbles in polar ice cores.

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