On the Estimation of Deep Atlantic Ventilation from Fossil Radiocarbon Records. I. Modern Reference Estimates

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • 2 East China Normal University, Shanghai, China, and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany.
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Abstract

Radiocarbon dates of fossil carbonates sampled from sediment cores and the seafloor have been used to infer that deep ocean ventilation during the last ice age was different from today. In this first of paired papers, the time-averaged abyssal circulation in the modern Atlantic is estimated by combining a hydrographic climatology, observational estimates of volume transports, Argo float velocities at 1000 m, radiocarbon data, and geostrophic dynamics. Different estimates of modern circulation, obtained from different prior assumptions about the abyssal flow and different errors in the geostrophic balance, are produced for use in a robust interpretation of fossil records in terms of deviations from the present-day flow, which is undertaken in the second paper.

For all estimates, the meridional transport integrated zonally and averaged over a hemisphere, 〈Vk〉, is southward between 1000-4000 m in both hemispheres, northward between 4000-5000 m in the South Atlantic, and insignificant between 4000-5000 m in the North Atlantic. Estimates of 〈Vk〉 obtained from two distinct prior circulations - one based on a level of no motion at 4000 m and one based on Argo oat velocities at 1000 m - become statistically indistinguishable when Δ14C data are considered. The transport time scale, defined as τk = Vk/〈Vk〉, where Vk is the volume of the kth layer, is estimated to about a century between 1000-3000 m in both the South and North Atlantic, 124±9 yr (203±23 yr) between 3000-4000 m in the South (North) Atlantic, and 269±115 yr between 4000-5000 m in the South Atlantic.

Corresponding author address:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: omarchal@whoi.edu

Abstract

Radiocarbon dates of fossil carbonates sampled from sediment cores and the seafloor have been used to infer that deep ocean ventilation during the last ice age was different from today. In this first of paired papers, the time-averaged abyssal circulation in the modern Atlantic is estimated by combining a hydrographic climatology, observational estimates of volume transports, Argo float velocities at 1000 m, radiocarbon data, and geostrophic dynamics. Different estimates of modern circulation, obtained from different prior assumptions about the abyssal flow and different errors in the geostrophic balance, are produced for use in a robust interpretation of fossil records in terms of deviations from the present-day flow, which is undertaken in the second paper.

For all estimates, the meridional transport integrated zonally and averaged over a hemisphere, 〈Vk〉, is southward between 1000-4000 m in both hemispheres, northward between 4000-5000 m in the South Atlantic, and insignificant between 4000-5000 m in the North Atlantic. Estimates of 〈Vk〉 obtained from two distinct prior circulations - one based on a level of no motion at 4000 m and one based on Argo oat velocities at 1000 m - become statistically indistinguishable when Δ14C data are considered. The transport time scale, defined as τk = Vk/〈Vk〉, where Vk is the volume of the kth layer, is estimated to about a century between 1000-3000 m in both the South and North Atlantic, 124±9 yr (203±23 yr) between 3000-4000 m in the South (North) Atlantic, and 269±115 yr between 4000-5000 m in the South Atlantic.

Corresponding author address:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: omarchal@whoi.edu
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