Late Pliocene changes in the North Atlantic Current

B. David A. Naafs, Ruediger Stein, Jens Hefter, Nabil Khelifi, Stijn De Schepper, Gerald H. Haug

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


During the late Pliocene global climate changed drastically as the Northern Hemisphere glaciation (NHG) intensified It remains poorly understood how the North Atlantic Current (NAC) changed in strength and position during this time interval Such changes may alter the amount of northward heat transport and therefore have a large impact on climate in the circum-North Atlantic region and the growth of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets Using the alkenone biomarker we reconstructed orbitally resolved sea surface temperature (SST) and productivity records at Integrated Ocean Drilling Project (IODP) Expedition 306 Site U1313 during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene, 368-2.45 million years ago (Ma) Before 3 1 Ma, SSTs in the mid-latitude North Atlantic were up to 6 degrees C higher than the present and surface water productivity was low, indicating that an intense NAC transported warm, nutrient-poor surface waters northwards Starting at 3 1 Ma, surface water characteristics changed drastically as the NHG intensified During glacial periods at the end of the late Pliocene and beginning of the Pleistocene. SSTs decreased and surface water productivity in the mid-latitude North Atlantic increased, reflecting a weakened influence of the NAC at our site At the same time the increase in surface productivity suggests that the Arctic Front (AF) reached down into the mid-latitudes We propose that during the intensification of the NHG the NAG had an almost pure west to east flow direction in glacials and did not penetrate into the higher latitudes The diminished northward heat transport would have led to a cooling of the higher latitudes, which may have encouraged the growth of large continental ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere (c) 2010 Elsevier B V All rights reserved

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-442
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


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