Paleoceanography

Thermohaline instability in the North Atlantic during meltwater events: Stable isotope and ice-rafted detritus records from Core SO75-26KL, Portuguese Margin

Authors

  • Rainer Zahn,

  • Joachim Schönfeld,

  • Hermann-Rudolf Kudrass,

  • Myong-Ho Park,

  • Helmut Erlenkeuser,

  • Pieter Grootes


Abstract

A benthic isotope record has been measured for core SO75-26KL from the upper Portuguese margin (1099 m water depth) to monitor the response of thermohaline overturn in the North Atlantic during Heinrich events. Evaluating benthic δ18O in TS diagrams in conjunction with equilibrium δc fractionation implies that advection of Mediterranean outflow water (MOW) to the upper Portuguese margin was significantly reduced during the last glacial (< 15% compared to 30% today). The benthic isotope record along core SO75-26KL therefore primarily monitors variability of glacial North Atlantic conveyor circulation. The 14C-accelerator mass spectrometry ages of 13.54±.07 and 20.46±.12 ka for two ice-rafted detritus (IRD) layers in the upper core section and an interpolated age of 36.1 ka for a third IRD layer deeper in the core are in the range of published 14C ages for Heinrich events H1, H2, and H4. Marked depletion of benthic δ13C by 0.7–1.1‰ during the Heinrich events suggests reduced thermohaline overturn in the North Atlantic during these events. Close similarity between meltwater patterns (inferred from planktonic δ18O) at Site 609 and ventilation patterns (inferred from benthic δ13C) in core SO75-26KL implies coupling between thermohaline overturn and surface forcing, as is also suggested by ocean circulation models. Benthic δ13C starts to decrease 1.5–2.5 kyr before Heinrich events Hl and H4, fully increased values are reached 1.5–3 kyr after the events, indicating a successive slowdown of thermohaline circulation well before the events and resumption of the conveyor's full strength well after the events. Benthic δ13C changes in the course of the Heinrich events show subtle maxima and minima suggesting oscillatory behavior of thermohaline circulation, a distinct feature of thermohaline instability in numerical models. Inferrred gradual spin-up of thermohaline circulation after Hl and H4 is in contrast to abrupt wanning in the North Atlantic region that is indicated by sudden increases in Greenland ice core δ18O and in marine faunal records from the northern North Atlantic. From this we infer that thermohaline circulation can explain only in part the rapid climatic oscillations seen in glacial sections of the Greenland ice core record.

Ancillary