Stratification-induced variations in nutrient utilization in the Polar North Atlantic during past interglacials.

Thibodeau, Benoit, Bauch, Henning A. and Pedersen, Thomas F. (2017) Stratification-induced variations in nutrient utilization in the Polar North Atlantic during past interglacials. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 457 . pp. 127-135. DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.09.060.

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Supplementary data:



• A thin mixed-layer and a strongly stratified upper-water characterized MIS 1.
• A thick mixed-layer prevailed during MIS 11 and reduced nitrate utilization.
• These contrasting results explain the weak expression of MIS 11 in the polar latitudes.
• Caution is needed when using older interglacials as near-future climate analogues.


Vertical water mass structure in the Polar North Atlantic Ocean plays a critical role in planetary climate by influencing the formation rate of North Atlantic deepwater, which in turn affects surface heat transfer in the northern hemisphere, ventilation of the deep sea, and ocean circulation on a global scale. However, the response of upper stratification in the Nordic seas to near-future hydrologic forcing, as surface water warms and freshens due to global temperature rise and Greenland ice demise, remains poorly known. While past major interglacials are viewed as potential analogues of the present, recent findings suggest that very different surface ocean conditions prevailed in the Polar North Atlantic during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5e and 11 compared to the Holocene. It is thus crucial to identify the causes of those differences in order to understand their role in climatic and oceanographic variability. To resolve this, we pair here bulk sediment δ15N isotopic signatures with planktonic foraminiferal assemblages and their isotopic composition across major past interglacials. The comparison defines for the first time stratification-induced variations in nitrate utilization up to 25% between and within all of these warm periods that highlight changes in the thickness of the mixed-layer throughout the previous interglacials. That thickness directly controls the depth-level of Atlantic water inflow. The major changes of nitrate utilization recorded here thus suggest that a thicker mixed-layer prevailed during past interglacials, probably related to longer freshwater input associated with the preceding glacial termination. This would have caused the Atlantic water to flow at greater depth during MIS 5e and 11. These results call for caution when using older interglacials as modern or near-future climate analogues and contribute to the improvement of our general comprehension of the impact of freshwater input near a globally important deep-water formation site like the Nordic Seas. This is crucial when assessing the negative impacts on the Greenland Ice Sheet of climate change and global warming.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: WOS:000389398000012
Keywords: Atlantic meridional overturning circulation; Freshwater discharge; Global changes; Polar seas; Stratification
Research affiliation: HGF-AWI
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-P-OZ Paleo-Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
Publisher: Elsevier
Related URLs:
Projects: CATS
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2016 13:28
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2020 07:45

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