Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Research article
11 Feb 2011
Research article |  | 11 Feb 2011

Sea-surface salinity variations in the northern Caribbean Sea across the Mid-Pleistocene Transition

S. Sepulcre, L. Vidal, K. Tachikawa, F. Rostek, and E. Bard

Abstract. By reconstructing past hydrologic variations in the Northern Caribbean Sea and their influence on the stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) during the last 940 ka, we seek to document climate changes in this tropical area in response to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT). Using core MD03-2628, we estimated past changes in sea surface salinity (SSS) using Δδ18O, the difference between the modern, and the past δ18O of seawater (obtained by combining alkenone thermometer data with the δ18O of the planktonic foraminifera Globigerinoides rube (white) and corrected for ice-sheet volume effects). Today, the lowest SSS values in the area studied are associated with the northernmost location of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The Δδ18O record obtained from core MD03-2628 exhibits glacial/interglacial cyclicity with higher values during all glacial periods spanning the last 940 ka, indicating increased SSS. A long-term trend was also observed in the Δδ18O values that exhibited a shift toward lower values for interglacial periods during the last 450 ka, as compared to interglacial stages older than 650 ka. A rise in SSS during glacial stages may be related to the southernmost location of the ITCZ, which is induced by a steeper cross-equator temperature gradient and associated with reduced northward cross-equatorial oceanic transport. Therefore, the results suggest a permanent link between the tropical salinity budget and the AMOC during the last 940 ka. Following the MPT, lower salinities during the last five interglacial stages indicated a northernmost ITCZ location that was forced by changes in the cross-equator temperature gradient and that was associated with the poleward position of Southern Oceanic Fronts that amplify the transport of heat and moisture to the North Atlantic. These processes may have contributed to the amplification of the climate cycles that followed the MPT.