Ventilation of the deep Southern Ocean and changes in atmospheric CO2 during the last deglacial and glacial periods
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The Southern Ocean is thought to have played a key role in atmospheric CO2 (CO2,atm) variations, both via its role in bringing carbon-rich deep-waters into contact with the atmosphere, and via its capacity for enhanced biologically mediated carbon export into the deep sea. The governing mechanisms of millennial scale rises in CO2,atm during the last deglacial and glacial periods have been linked controversially either with variations in biological export productivity, possibly driven by fluctuations in airborne dust supply, or to variations in southern high-latitude vertical mixing, possibly driven by changes in westerly wind stress or density stratification across the Southern Ocean water column. However, the impact of these processes on deep, southern high-latitude carbon sequestration and ocean-atmosphere CO2 exchange remain ambiguous. We present proxy evidence for the link between deep carbon storage in the sub-Antarctic Atlantic with changes in CO2,atm during the last 70 ka from sub-millennially resolved changes in bottom water oxygenation based on the uranium accumulation in authigenic coatings on foraminiferal shells and the δ13C offset between epibenthic and infaunal foraminifera (Δδ13C). We compare our results with reconstructed opal fluxes and sediment model output data to assess the impact of physical and biological processes on Southern Ocean carbon storage. While variations in sub-Antarctic Atlantic export production are intrinsically linked with changes in airborne dust supply supporting the major impact of dust on the biological soft-tissue pump, they cannot account for observed changes in pore water organic carbon respiration indicated by increasing Δδ13C and therefore, bottom water oxygen changes in the deep sub-Antarctic Atlantic. This is in strong support of millennial-scale fluctuations in deep Southern Ocean carbon storage primarily controlled by the ventilation of the deep ocean by southern-sourced water masses, which emphasize the strong control of vertical mixing and upwelling of CO2-rich water masses in the Southern Ocean on the ocean-atmosphere exchange of CO2 and variation in CO2,atm over both glacial-interglacial and millennial time scales.