Benthic foraminiferal oxygen and carbon isotopic records from Southern Ocean sediment cores show that during the last glacial period, the South Atlantic sector of the deep Southern Ocean filled to roughly 2500 m with water uniformly low in VC, resulting in the appearance of a strong mid-depth nutricline similar to those observed in glacial northern oceans. Concomitantly, deep water isotopic gradients developed between the Pacific and Atlantic sectors of the Southern Ocean; the delta(13)C of benthic foraminifera in Pacific sediments remained significantly higher than those in the Atlantic during the glacial episode. These two observations help to define the extent of what has become known as the 'Southern Ocean low delta(13)C problem'. One explanation for this glacial distribution of delta(13)C calls upon surface productivity overprints or changes in the microhabitat of benthic foraminifera to lower glacial age delta(13)C values. We show here, however, that glacial-interglacial delta(13)C shifts are similarly large everywhere in the deep South Atlantic, regardless of productivity regime or sedimentary environment. Furthermore, the degree of isotopic decoupling between the Atlantic and Pacific basins is proportional to the magnitude of delta(13)C change in the Atlantic on all time scales. Thus, we conclude that the profoundly altered distribution of delta(13)C in the glacial Southern Ocean is most likely the result of deep ocean circulation changes. While the characteristics of the Southern Ocean delta(13)C records clearly point to reduced North Atlantic Deep Water input during glacial periods, the basinal differences suggest that the mode of Southern Ocean deep water formation must have been altered as well. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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