The Southern Ocean’s role in carbon exchange during the last deglaciation

Andrea Burke, Laura F. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in the upwelling and degassing of carbon from the Southern Ocean form one of the leading hypotheses for the cause of glacial-interglacial changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. We present a 25,000-year-long Southern Ocean radiocarbon record reconstructed from deep-sea corals, which shows radiocarbon-depleted waters during the glacial period and through the early deglaciation. This depletion and associated deep stratification disappeared by ~14.6 ka (thousand years ago), consistent with the transfer of carbon from the deep ocean to the surface ocean and atmosphere via a Southern Ocean ventilation event. Given this evidence for carbon exchange in the Southern Ocean, we show that existing deep-ocean radiocarbon records from the glacial period are sufficiently depleted to explain the ~190 per mil drop in atmospheric radiocarbon between ~17 and 14.5 ka.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-561
Issue number6068
Early online date15 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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