Volume 10, Issue 2 p. 171-177
Paleoceanographic Currents

Climatically linked carbon isotope variation during the past 430,000 years in Southern Ocean sediments

First published: April 1995
Citations: 65


We use the isotopic composition of carbon from organic matter enclosed within diatom frustules as a proxy for paleoproductivity and paleo-dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations in ocean surface waters. A Southern Ocean record from south of the Antarctic Polar Front and spanning 430,000 years of carbon isotopic variation in diatomaceous organic matter is presented for the first time. The most refractory diatomaceous organic matter fraction was extracted and analyzed to avoid problems associated with diagenesis. The results clearly indicate cyclic changes in organic carbon isotopic ratios, with 13C depleted values associated with all of the last five glacial periods, reflecting changes in surface water properties and primary productivity. Changes in dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations are the most probable cause of these cycles, but the possible effect of seawater pH changes cannot be excluded.