Antarctic Role in Northern Hemisphere Glaciation
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
The late Pliocene, ~3 million years ago (Ma), is the most recent period in geologic history with elevated atmospheric CO2 and global surface temperature estimates analogous to those projected for the end of the 21st century making it a focus of paleoclimate research. Proxy reconstructions suggest average global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were ~2-3°C above present during the late Pliocene warm period (~3.3-2.9 Ma). In the North Atlantic, regional SST anomalies reached as much as +6°C and even larger temperature anomalies occurred on land in the northern hemisphere. An episode of global cooling and sea level fall following the warm late Pliocene is attributed to a major expansion of northern hemisphere ice sheets at ~2.73 Ma and referred to as the intensification of northern hemisphere glaciation (NHG). We reconstruct the thermal and geochemical history of North Pacific deep water (ODP Site 1208) from 3.3-2.5 Ma at orbital scale resolution using benthic foraminiferal Mg/Ca and stable isotopic ratios (δ18O, δ13C) in order to evaluate changes in continental ice volume and deep ocean circulation as the climate deteriorated and NHG intensified. We find that the oceanic cooling trend which followed late Pliocene warmth did not occur in the deep Pacific Ocean and an average ~21±10 m sea level equivalent ice growth occurred from 3.15-2.75 Ma prior to the intensification of NHG. Furthermore, both the benthic d18Oc and BWTs in the Pacific are offset from the North Atlantic prior to 2.75 Ma. By ~2.73 Ma (interglacial-glacial cycle G7-G6), the Atlantic-Pacific BWT and d18O gradients were reduced to <1°C and <0.1‰, respectively. We interpret these abrupt hydrographic changes as the initiation of stronger heat and salt transfer from the North Atlantic to the Pacific due to a fundamental change in deep ocean circulation driven by late Pliocene ice growth on Antarctica.