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The deglacial transition between oxygen-isotope Stages 6 and 5e (about 127,000 yr B.P.) is marked by both oxygen isotopic depletion and estimated sea-surface temperature (SST) increase in two subantarctic Indian Ocean cores. The data show synchroneity between warming of foraminifera-based SST estimates and depletion of δ18O, but an earlier warming trend on the basis of radiolarian SST estimates. These data have been previously interpreted to indicate that the high-latitude Southern Ocean warms prior to significant melting of glacial-age ice sheets. Comparison of core-top assemblages with surface and subsurface conditions in the Southern Indian Ocean reveals that (1) a three-part foraminiferal zonation reflects the surface hydrographic regime, with abrupt faunal transitions at two major fronts: the Subtropical Convergence (STC) and the Antarctic Polar Front (APF); and (2) a two-part radiolarian zonation coincides with a two-part subsurface hydrographic regime, with an abrupt faunal transition corresponding to the southern terminus of subtropical lower water (STLW) between the STC and the APF. It is suggested that shifts of these surface and subsurface regimes are recorded by these foraminiferal and radiolarian assemblages. In this interpretation, the observed lead of radiolarian SST with respect to δ18O indicates an early response to a southward shift of STLW, while the later foraminiferal SST warming indicates a southward shift of the STC. Thus, the origin of the Southern Hemisphere SST lead may be related to STLW, which emanates from the subtropical gyres, rather than the polar regions.
The final effort of the CLIMAP project was a study of the last interglaciation, a time of minimum ice volume some 122,000 yr ago coincident with the Substage 5e oxygen isotopic minimum. Based on detailed oxygen isotope analyses and biotic census counts in 52 cores across the world ocean, last interglacial sea-surface temperatures (SST) were compared with those today. There are small SST departures in the mid-latitude North Atlantic (warmer) and the Gulf of Mexico (cooler). The eastern boundary currents of the South Atlantic and Pacific oceans are marked by large SST anomalies in individual cores, but their interpretations are precluded by no-analog problems and by discordancies among estimates from different biotic groups. In general, the last interglacial ocean was not significantly different from the modern ocean. The relative sequencing of ice decay versus oceanic warming on the Stage 6/5 oxygen isotopic transition and of ice growth versus oceanic cooling on the Stage 5e/5d transition was also studied. In most of the Southern Hemisphere, the oceanic response marked by the biotic census counts preceded (led) the global ice-volume response marked by the oxygen-isotope signal by several thousand years. The reverse pattern is evident in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, where the oceanic response lagged that of global ice volume by several thousand years. As a result, the very warm temperatures associated with the last interglaciation were regionally diachronous by several thousand years. These regional lead-lag relationships agree with those observed on other transitions and in long-term phase relationships; they cannot be explained simply as artifacts of bioturbational translations of the original signals.
A seasonal reconstruction of the Indian Ocean during the last glacial maximum (∼18,000 yr B.P.) reveals that its surface circulation and sea surface temperature patterns were significantly different from the modern Indian Ocean. This reconstruction is based on the planktonic foraminiferal biogeography and estimated sea surface temperatures in 42 Indian Ocean samples. Compared to modern conditions, the polar front was 5° to 10° latitude further north during the last glacial maximum; the Subtropical Convergence was 2° to 5° latitude further north. The West Australian Current was more intense as part of the West Wind Drift was deflected northward along the coast of Australia. The Agulhas Current was cooler and weaker during the summer and more saline and subtropical during the winter. In general, the low latitudes underwent little temperature change. The western Arabian Sea was warmer which implies less upwelling and a weaker Southwest Monsoon. On the average, the Indian Ocean was 1.9°C cooler in February and 1.7°C cooler in August during the last glacial maximum.