Sea Ice Induced Glacial/Deglacial Changes in Southern Ocean Surface Structure

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Andrea Abelmann1, Rainer Gersonde1, Gregor Knorr1, Xu Zhang1, Bernhard Chapligin2, Edith Maier1, Oliver Esper1, Gerrit Lohmann1, Hanno Meyer2 and Ralf Tiedemann1, (1)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany, (2)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Glacial/deglacial sea ice variations in the Southern Ocean are suggested to be an important factor impacting ocean’s surface structure and biological productivity and thus controlling glacial/interglacial changes in atmospheric CO2. However, the description of involved mechanisms and their implication on nutrient cycling and biological productivity remains incomplete.

Isotope measurements on siliceous microorganisms (diatoms and radiolarians) provide a means of reconstructing past changes in nutrient utilization and surface water structure, thus provide information on past biological and physical properties crucial to better describe and model the mechanisms regulating glacial/interglacial variability in CO2 draw down in the Southern Ocean. As diatoms belong to the phytoplankton, they present a sea surface signal. Radiolarians, by contrast, are siliceous zooplankton distributed from surface to deep waters and their stable isotope signals can provide information about deeper water layers.

Here, we specify Southern Ocean surface/subsurface contrasts using combined oxygen and silicon isotope measurements of diatom and radiolarian opal obtained from two cores gathered in the sea ice-free Antarctic Zone and northern Polar Front Zone of the Atlantic Southern Ocean. Our records point to a well established glacial spring/summer stratification induced by sea-ice melt. Numerical simulations corroborate this, but also suggest that seasonal stratification was variable with relatively deep mixing that occurred during fall/winter. We discuss various aspects of nutrient utilization in surface and subsurface waters with specific emphasis on the impact of sea ice variations on mixed layer depths and biological productivity during the last glacial and deglacial transition.