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Keywords:

  • atmospheric CO2;
  • carbon isotope distributions;
  • glacial carbon cycle;
  • global ocean ventilation

[1] One potential mechanism for lowering atmospheric CO2 during glacial times is an increase in the fraction of the global ocean ventilated by the North Atlantic, which produces deep water with a low concentration of unused nutrients and thus drives the ocean's biological pump to a high efficiency. However, the data indicate that during glacial times, a water mass low in 13C/12C and 14C/C occupied the deep Atlantic, apparently at the expense of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). This water is commonly referred to as “southern-sourced” because of its apparent entry into the Atlantic basin from the South, prompting the inference that it was ventilated at the Southern Ocean surface. Here, we propose that this deep Atlantic water mass actually included a large fraction of North Atlantic-ventilated water, the chemical characteristics of which were altered by recirculation in the deep Southern and Indo-Pacific oceans. In an ocean model sensitivity experiment that reduces Antarctic Bottom Water formation and weakens its overturning circulation, we find that a much greater fraction of NADW is transported into the Southern Ocean without contacting the surface and is entrained and mixed into the southern-sourced deep water that spreads into the global abyssal ocean. Thus, North Atlantic ventilation takes over more of the ocean interior, lowering atmospheric CO2, and yet the abyssal Atlantic is filled from the South with old water low in 13C/12C and 14C/C, consistent with glacial data.