More efficient North Atlantic carbon pump during the Last Glacial Maximum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; ~20,000 years ago), the global ocean sequestered a large amount of carbon lost from the atmosphere and terrestrial biosphere. Suppressed CO2 outgassing from the Southern Ocean is the prevailing explanation for this carbon sequestration. By contrast, the North Atlantic Ocean—a major conduit for atmospheric CO2 transport to the ocean interior via the overturning circulation—has received much less attention. Here we demonstrate that North Atlantic carbon pump efficiency during the LGM was almost doubled relative to the Holocene. This is based on a novel proxy approach to estimate air–sea CO2 exchange signals using combined carbonate ion and nutrient reconstructions for multiple sediment cores from the North Atlantic. Our data indicate that in tandem with Southern Ocean processes, enhanced North Atlantic CO2 absorption contributed to lowering ice-age atmospheric CO2.


  • Jimin Yu
  • L. Menviel
  • Z. D. Jin
  • D. J.R. Thornalley
  • G. L. Foster
  • E. J. Rohling
  • I. N. McCave
  • J. F. McManus
  • Yuhao Dai
  • H. Ren
  • F. He
  • F. Zhang
  • P. J. Chen
  • A. P. Roberts
External organisations
  • Australian National University
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • University of New South Wales
  • Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology
  • University College London
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Cambridge
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • National Taiwan University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Oregon State University
  • State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology
  • Tongji University
  • Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Technology and Application
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Climate Research
Original languageEnglish
Article number2170
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 15
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes