A Caltech Library Service

Glacial Ocean Dynamics: Insight from Deep-Sea Coral Reconstructions and A Time-Dependent Dynamical Box Model


Hines, Sophia Katharine Vizza (2018) Glacial Ocean Dynamics: Insight from Deep-Sea Coral Reconstructions and A Time-Dependent Dynamical Box Model. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9RF5S72.


Glacial-interglacial cycles, occurring at a period of approximately 100,000 years, have dominated Earth's climate over the past 800,000 years. These cycles involve major changes in land ice, global sea level, ocean circulation, and the carbon cycle. While it is generally agreed that the ultimate driver of global climate is changes in insolation, glacial cycles do not look like insolation forcing. Notably, there is a highly non-linear warming response at 100,000 years to a relatively small forcing, implicating a more complicated system of biogeochemical and physical drivers. The ocean plays a pivotal role in glacial-interglacial climate through direct equator-to-pole transport of heat and its role in the carbon cycle. The deep ocean contains 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere, and therefore even small changes in ocean circulation can have a large impact on atmospheric CO2, a crucial amplifier in the climate system. In order to better understand the role that ocean circulation plays in glacial-interglacial climate we focus on the last glacial-interglacial transition. In this thesis, we present reconstructions of changes in intermediate water circulation and explore a new time-dependent dynamical box model. We reconstruct circulation using radiocarbon and clumped isotope measurements on U/Th dated deep-sea corals from the New England and Corner Rise Seamounts in the western basin of the North Atlantic and from south of Tasmania in the Indo-Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean. Our new time-dependent model contains key aspects of ocean physics, including Southern Ocean Residual Mean theory, and allows us to explore dynamical mechanisms which drive abrupt climate transitions during the last glacial period.

In Chapter 2 we present a compilation of reconnaissance dated deep-sea corals from the Caltech collection. Reconnaissance dating facilitates sample selection for our high-precision radiocarbon and temperature time series and patterns in the depth distribution of deep-sea corals over time contain additional relevant climate information. In Chapter 3, we present a high-resolution radiocarbon record from south of Tasmania which highlights variability in Southern Ocean Intermediate Water radiocarbon during the deglaciation, particularly during the Antarctic Cold Reversal. We use our radiocarbon data, in combination with other deglacial climate records, to infer changes in overturning circulation configuration across this time interval. In Chapter 4 we present our time-dependent dynamical box model. Our model displays hysteresis in basin stratification and Southern Ocean isopycnal outcrop position as a function of North Atlantic Deep Water formation rate. In a dynamical system, hysteresis implies that there are multiple stable states, and switches between these states can lead to abrupt transitions, such as those observed during the middle of the last glacial period. In Chapter 5 we present paired radiocarbon and temperature time series from the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean spanning the late part of the last glacial. We explore the mechanisms driving trends in radiocarbon and temperature by looking at cross-plots of the data, and we make inferences about changes in circulation configuration using insight gained from our dynamical box model.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Paleoceanography; Oceanography; Climate change; Glacial cycles; Ocean circulation; Ocean dynamics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geochemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Adkins, Jess F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Farley, Kenneth A. (chair)
  • Eiler, John M.
  • Thompson, Andrew F.
  • Adkins, Jess F.
Defense Date:5 September 2017
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10242017-152242759
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 3 in article referenced in Chapter 2
Hines, Sophia Katharine Vizza0000-0001-9357-6399
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10539
Deposited By: Sophia Hines
Deposited On:30 Oct 2017 22:19
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:18

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page