Sea-ice control on deglacial lower cell circulation changes recorded by Drake Passage deep-sea corals

David Wilson*, Torben Struve, Tina van de Flierdt, Tianyu Chen, Tao Li, Andrea Burke, Laura F. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


The sequence of deep ocean circulation changes between the Last Glacial Maximum and the Holocene provides important insights for understanding deglacial climate change and the role of the deep ocean in the global carbon cycle. Although it is known that significant amounts of carbon were sequestered in a deep overturning cell during glacial periods and released during deglaciation, the driving mechanisms for these changes remain unresolved. Southern Ocean sea-ice has recently been proposed to play a critical role in setting the global deep ocean stratification and circulation, and hence carbon storage, but testing such conceptual and modelling studies requires data constraining past circulation changes. To this end, we present the first deglacial dataset of neodymium (Nd) isotopes measured on absolute-dated deep-sea corals from modern Lower Circumpolar Deep Water depths in the Drake Passage. Our record demonstrates deglacial variability of 2.5 εNd units, with radiogenic values of up to during the Last Glacial Maximum providing evidence for a stratified glacial circulation mode with restricted incorporation of Nd from North Atlantic Deep Water in the lower cell. During the deglaciation, a renewed Atlantic influence in the deep Southern Ocean is recorded early in Heinrich Stadial 1, coincident with Antarctic sea-ice retreat, and is followed by a brief return to more Pacific-like values during the Antarctic Cold Reversal. These changes demonstrate a strong influence of Southern Ocean processes in setting deep ocean circulation and support the proposed sea-ice control on deep ocean structure. Furthermore, by constraining the Nd isotopic composition of Lower Circumpolar Deep Water in the Southern Ocean, our new data are important for interpreting deglacial circulation changes in other ocean basins and support a spatially asynchronous return of North Atlantic Deep Water to the deep southeast and southwest Atlantic Ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116405
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date17 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2020


  • Ocean circulation
  • Deglaciation
  • Drake Passage
  • Nd isotopes
  • Deep-sea corals
  • Sea-ice


Dive into the research topics of 'Sea-ice control on deglacial lower cell circulation changes recorded by Drake Passage deep-sea corals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this