Today the deep western boundary current (DWBC) east of New Zealand is the most important route for deep water entering the Pacific Ocean. Large-scale changes in deep water circulation patterns are thought to have been associated with the development of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) close to the main source of bottom water for the DWBC. Here we reconstruct the changing speed of the southwest Pacific DWBC during the middle Miocene from ∼15.5-12.5 Ma, a period of significant global ice accumulation associated with EAIS growth. Sortable silt mean grain sizes from Ocean Drilling Program Site 1123 reveal variability in the speed of the Pacific inflow on the timescale of the 41 kyr orbital obliquity cycle. Similar orbital period flow changes have recently been demonstrated for the Pleistocene epoch. Collectively, these observations suggest that a strong coupling between changes in the speed of the deep Pacific inflow and high-latitude climate forcing may have been a persistent feature of the global thermohaline circulation system for at least the past 15 Myr. Furthermore, long-term changes in flow speed suggest an intensification of the DWBC under an inferred increase in Southern Component Water production. This occurred at the same time as decreasing Tethyan outflow and major EAIS growth between ∼15.5 and 13.5 Ma. These results provide evidence that a major component of the deep thermohaline circulation was associated with the middle Miocene growth of the EAIS and support the view that this time interval represents an important step in the development of the Neogene icehouse climate.
- ocean circulation
- Programområde 5: Natur og klima