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The Deep Ocean Density Structure at the Last Glacial Maximum: What Was It and Why?


Miller, Madeline Diane (2014) The Deep Ocean Density Structure at the Last Glacial Maximum: What Was It and Why? Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/QHD5-FH77.


The search for reliable proxies of past deep ocean temperature and salinity has proved difficult, thereby limiting our ability to understand the coupling of ocean circulation and climate over glacial-interglacial timescales. Previous inferences of deep ocean temperature and salinity from sediment pore fluid oxygen isotopes and chlorinity indicate that the deep ocean density structure at the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, approximately 20,000 years BP) was set by salinity, and that the density contrast between northern and southern sourced deep waters was markedly greater than in the modern ocean. High density stratification could help explain the marked contrast in carbon isotope distribution recorded in the LGM ocean relative to that we observe today, but what made the ocean's density structure so different at the LGM? How did it evolve from one state to another? Further, given the sparsity of the LGM temperature and salinity data set, what else can we learn by increasing the spatial density of proxy records?

We investigate the cause and feasibility of a highly and salinity stratified deep ocean at the LGM and we work to increase the amount of information we can glean about the past ocean from pore fluid profiles of oxygen isotopes and chloride. Using a coupled ocean--sea ice--ice shelf cavity model we test whether the deep ocean density structure at the LGM can be explained by ice--ocean interactions over the Antarctic continental shelves, and show that a large contribution of the LGM salinity stratification can be explained through lower ocean temperature. In order to extract the maximum information from pore fluid profiles of oxygen isotopes and chloride we evaluate several inverse methods for ill-posed problems and their ability to recover bottom water histories from sediment pore fluid profiles. We demonstrate that Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo parameter estimation techniques enable us to robustly recover the full solution space of bottom water histories, not only at the LGM, but through the most recent deglaciation and the Holocene up to the present. Finally, we evaluate a non-destructive pore fluid sampling technique, Rhizon samplers, in comparison to traditional squeezing methods and show that despite their promise, Rhizons are unlikely to be a good sampling tool for pore fluid measurements of oxygen isotopes and chloride.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:ocean, glacial, ice shelf, sea ice, pore fluid, sediment, salinity, chlorinity, oxygen stable isotope, Bayes, Markov Chain, Monte Carlo, Last Glacial Maximum
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Adkins, Jess F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Murray, Richard M. (chair)
  • Adkins, Jess F.
  • Brady, John F.
  • Charles, Christopher D.
  • Simons, Mark
Defense Date:27 September 2013
Non-Caltech Author Email:madelinem (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10312013-000733635
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle adapted for ch.5
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8020
Deposited By: Madeline Miller
Deposited On:03 Nov 2014 18:33
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:03

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