Indian Ocean salinity build-up primes deglacial ocean circulation recovery

Sophie Nuber*, James W. B. Rae, Xu Zhang, Morten B. Andersen, Matthew D. Dumont, Huw T. Mithan, Yuchen Sun, Bas de Boer, Ian R. Hall, Stephen Barker

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The Indian Ocean provides a source of salt for North Atlantic deep-water convection sites, via the Agulhas Leakage, and may thus drive changes in the ocean’s overturning circulation1–3. However, little is known about the salt content variability of Indian Ocean and Agulhas Leakage waters during past glacial cycles and how this may influence circulation. Here we show that the glacial Indian Ocean surface salt budget was notably different from the modern, responding dynamically to changes in sea level. Indian Ocean surface salinity increased during glacial intensification, peaking in glacial maxima. We find that this is due to rapid land exposure in the Indonesian archipelago induced by glacial sea-level lowering, and we suggest a mechanistic link via reduced input of relatively fresh Indonesian Throughflow waters into the Indian Ocean. Using climate model results, we show that the release of this glacial Indian Ocean salinity via the Agulhas Leakage during deglaciation can directly impact the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and global climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-311
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume617
Issue number7960
Early online date10 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2023

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