Synchronous, high-frequency oscillations in tropical sea surface temperatures and North Atlantic Deep Water production during the Last Glacial Cycle


  • W. B. Curry,

  • D. W. Oppo


Stable isotopic measurements of G. sacculifer and C. wuellerstorfi in a core from the western equatorial Atlantic imply that there are parallel, suborbital oscillations in surface water hydrography and deep water circulation occurring during oxygen isotope stages 2 and 3. Low values of G. sacculifer δ18O accompany high values of C. wuellerstorfi δ13C, linking warmer sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropics with increased production of lower North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). The amplitude of the δ18O oscillations is 0.6‰ (or 2°–3°C), which is superimposed on a glacial/interglacial amplitude of about 2.1‰. Using the G. sacculifer δ18O data, we calculate that surface waters were colder during stage 2 than calculated by CLIMAP [1976, 1981]. The longer-period (>2 kyr) oscillations in air temperature recorded in the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores appear to correlate with oscillations in sea surface temperature in the equatorial Atlantic. The magnitude of these oscillations in tropical SST is too large to have resulted from changes in meridional heat transport caused by the global conveyor alone. The apparent synchroneity of equatorial SST and polar air temperature changes, as well as the amplitude of the SST changes at the equator, are consistent with the climate effects expected from changes in the atmosphere's greenhouse gas content (H2Ovapor, CO2, and CH4).