Pleistocene equatorial Pacific dynamics inferred from the zonal asymmetry in sedimentary nitrogen isotopes

Rafter, PA, Charles CD.  2012.  Pleistocene equatorial Pacific dynamics inferred from the zonal asymmetry in sedimentary nitrogen isotopes. Paleoceanography. 27

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climate, cycle, denitrification, nitrate, nutrient utilization, ocean, oscillation, water, western


There is little agreement among models in predicting the average state of the tropical Pacific when subjected to enhanced greenhouse gas forcing. This uncertainty emphasizes the importance of reconstructing past variability in tropical Pacific climate through episodes of significant and estimable radiative forcing. Thus far, efforts along these lines have concentrated primarily on inferences of sea surface temperature variability from deep-sea sediments. Here we offer a different view of the equatorial Pacific over the past similar to 1.2 million years (Myr)-before and after the mid-Pleistocene shift in the structure of ice ages. The zonal gradient in the nitrogen isotopic composition of sediment across the equatorial Pacific reflects nutrient delivery to the surface and, by extension, ocean dynamical properties. Over the last similar to 1.2 Myr, the variability of eastern equatorial Pacific nutrient upwelling (inferred from relative nitrate utilization) was highly correlated with local seasonal insolation. By contrast, nitrate utilization was insensitive to the 100,000 year cycle that dominated many other aspects of the Pleistocene ice ages, including greenhouse gas concentrations. A strong linear relationship between relative nitrate utilization and seasonal insolation over the past similar to 1 million years suggests a predictable response of one primary determinant of tropical Pacific climate change.






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