Arguably among the most globally impactful climate changes in Earth's past million years are the glacial terminations that punctuated the Pleistocene epoch. With the acquisition and analysis of marine and continental records, including ice cores, it is now clear that the Earth's climate was responding profoundly to changes in greenhouse gases that accompanied those glacial terminations. But the ultimate forcing responsible for the greenhouse gas variability remains elusive. The oceans must play a central role in any hypothesis that attempt to explain the systematic variations in pCO 2 because the Ocean is a giant carbon capacitor, regulating carbon entering and leaving the atmosphere. For a long time, geological processes that regulate fluxes of carbon to and from the oceans were thought to operate too slowly to account for any of the systematic variations in atmospheric pCO 2 that accompanied glacial cycles during the Pleistocene. Here we investigate the role that Earth's hydrothermal systems had in affecting the flux of carbon to the ocean and ultimately, the atmosphere during the last glacial termination. We document late glacial and deglacial intervals of anomalously old 14 C reservoir ages, large benthic-planktic foraminifera 14 C age differences, and increased deposition of hydrothermal metals in marine sediments from the eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP) that indicate a significant release of hydrothermal fluids entered the ocean at the last glacial termination. The large 14 C anomaly was accompanied by a ∼4-fold increase in Zn/Ca in both benthic and planktic foraminifera that reflects an increase in dissolved [Zn] throughout the water column. Foraminiferal B/Ca and Li/Ca results from these sites document deglacial declines in  throughout the water column; these were accompanied by carbonate dissolution at water depths that today lie well above the calcite lysocline. Taken together, these results are strong evidence for an increased flux of hydrothermally-derived carbon through the EEP upwelling system at the last glacial termination that would have exchanged with the atmosphere and affected both Δ 14 C and pCO 2 . These data do not quantify the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere through the EEP upwelling system but indicate that geologic forcing must be incorporated into models that attempt to simulate the cyclic nature of glacial/interglacial climate variability. Importantly, these results underscore the need to put better constraints on the flux of carbon from geologic reservoirs that affect the global carbon budget.
- Oceanografi, hydrologi, vattenresurser