Boron isotope evidence for oceanic carbon dioxide leakage during the last deglaciation

M. A. Martínez-Botí*, G. Marino, G. L. Foster, P. Ziveri, M. J. Henehan, J. W.B. Rae, P. G. Mortyn, D. Vance

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Atmospheric CO2 fluctuations over glacial-interglacial cycles remain a major challenge to our understanding of the carbon cycle and the climate system. Leading hypotheses put forward to explain glacial-interglacial atmospheric CO2 variations invoke changes in deep-ocean carbon storage, probably modulated by processes in the Southern Ocean, where much of the deep ocean is ventilated. A central aspect of such models is that, during deglaciations, an isolated glacial deep-ocean carbon reservoir is reconnected with the atmosphere, driving the atmospheric CO2 rise observed in ice-core records. However, direct documentation of changes in surface ocean carbon content and the associated transfer of carbon to the atmosphere during deglaciations has been hindered by the lack of proxy reconstructions that unambiguously reflect the oceanic carbonate system. Radiocarbon activity tracks changes in ocean ventilation, but not in ocean carbon content, whereas proxies that record increased deglacial upwelling do not constrain the proportion of upwelled carbon that is degassed relative to that which is taken up by the biological pump. Here we apply the boron isotope pH proxy in planktic foraminifera to two sediment cores from the sub-Antarctic Atlantic and the eastern equatorial Pacific as a more direct tracer of oceanic CO2 outgassing. We show that surface waters at both locations, which partly derive from deep water upwelled in the Southern Ocean, became a significant source of carbon to the atmosphere during the last deglaciation, when the concentration of atmospheric CO2 was increasing. This oceanic CO2 outgassing supports the view that the ventilation of a deep-ocean carbon reservoir in the Southern Ocean had a key role in the deglacial CO2 rise, although our results allow for the possibility that processes operating in other regions may also have been important for the glacial-interglacial ocean-atmosphere exchange of carbon.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)219-222
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume518
Issue number7538
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2015

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