Revisiting carbonate chemistry controls on planktic foraminifera Mg / Ca: implications for sea surface temperature and hydrology shifts over the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum and Eocene–Oligocene transition
Abstract. Much of our knowledge of past ocean temperatures comes from the foraminifera Mg / Ca palaeothermometer. Several nonthermal controls on foraminifera Mg incorporation have been identified, of which vital effects, salinity, and secular variation in seawater Mg / Ca are the most commonly considered. Ocean carbonate chemistry is also known to influence Mg / Ca, yet this is rarely examined as a source of uncertainty, either because (1) precise pH and [CO32−] reconstructions are sparse or (2) it is not clear from existing culture studies how a correction should be applied. We present new culture data of the relationship between carbonate chemistry and Mg / Ca for the surface-dwelling planktic species Globigerinoides ruber and compare our results to data compiled from existing studies. We find a coherent relationship between Mg / Ca and the carbonate system and argue that pH rather than [CO32−] is likely to be the dominant control. Applying these new calibrations to data sets for the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene–Oligocene transition (EOT) enables us to produce a more accurate picture of surface hydrology change for the former and a reassessment of the amount of subtropical precursor cooling for the latter. We show that pH-adjusted Mg / Ca and δ18O data sets for the PETM are within error of no salinity change and that the amount of precursor cooling over the EOT has been previously underestimated by ∼ 2 °C based on Mg / Ca. Finally, we present new laser-ablation data of EOT-age Turborotalia ampliapertura from St. Stephens Quarry (Alabama), for which a solution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) Mg / Ca record is available (Wade et al., 2012). We show that the two data sets are in excellent agreement, demonstrating that fossil solution and laser-ablation data may be directly comparable. Together with an advancing understanding of the effect of Mg / Casw, the coherent picture of the relationship between Mg / Ca and pH that we outline here represents a step towards producing accurate and quantitative palaeotemperatures using this proxy.