Deep-Sea Temperature and Ice Volume Changes Across the Pliocene-Pleistocene Climate Transitions

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Science  17 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5938, pp. 306-310
DOI: 10.1126/science.1169938

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Earth has undergone profound changes since the late Pliocene, which led to the development [~2.7 million years ago (Ma)] and intensification (~0.9 Ma) of large-scale Northern Hemisphere ice sheets, recorded as transitions in the benthic foraminiferal oxygen isotope (δ18Ob) record. Here we present an orbitally resolved record of deep ocean temperature derived from benthic foraminiferal magnesium/calcium ratios from the North Atlantic, which shows that temperature variations are a substantial portion of the global δ18Ob signal. The record shows two distinct cooling events associated with the late Pliocene (LPT, 2.5 to 3 Ma) and mid-Pleistocene (MPT, 1.2 to 0.85 Ma) climate transitions. Whereas the LPT increase in ice volume is attributed directly to global cooling, the shift to 100,000-year cycles at the MPT is more likely to be a response to an additional change in ice-sheet dynamics.

  • Present address: Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia.

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