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Science. 2004 Sep 17;305(5691):1766-70.

Middle Miocene Southern Ocean cooling and Antarctic cryosphere expansion.

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  • 1Department of Geological Sciences and Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9630, USA. ashevenell@umail.ucsb.edu


Magnesium/calcium data from Southern Ocean planktonic foraminifera demonstrate that high-latitude (approximately 55 degrees S) southwest Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) cooled 6 degrees to 7 degrees C during the middle Miocene climate transition (14.2 to 13.8 million years ago). Stepwise surface cooling is paced by eccentricity forcing and precedes Antarctic cryosphere expansion by approximately 60 thousand years, suggesting the involvement of additional feedbacks during this interval of inferred low-atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). Comparing SSTs and global carbon cycling proxies challenges the notion that episodic pCO2 drawdown drove this major Cenozoic climate transition. SST, salinity, and ice-volume trends suggest instead that orbitally paced ocean circulation changes altered meridional heat/vapor transport, triggering ice growth and global cooling.

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