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Published August 2015 | Published
Journal Article Open

The Information Content of Pore Fluid δ^(18)O and [CI^-]


Paleoceanographic proxies indicate that the ocean state during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) differed from the modern ocean state. Depth profiles of ocean sediment pore fluid δ^(18)O and [Cl^−] have been used to reconstruct the δ^(18)O and salinity at the LGM. Here, it is investigated whether pore fluid profiles can constrain ocean δ^(18)O and salinity at other times and, simultaneously, their ability to constrain the LGM δ^(18)O and salinity. An inverse framework is developed that relies on Bayesian parameter estimation, thus allowing formal separation of prior assumptions from the information in observations. Synthetic problems are used to explore the information about past ocean tracers that can be recovered from pore fluid profiles. It is concluded that prior knowledge of deep ocean mixing time scales is essential to an accurate inverse estimate of LGM ocean salinity and δ^(18)O from modern pore fluid profiles. The most recent 10 000 years of ocean salinity and δ^(18)O and the error in their estimates are better constrained by the pore fluid profiles than are the LGM values. The inverse estimate of salinity and δ^(18)O is strongly correlated with the estimate of diffusivity of oxygen isotopes and [Cl^−] in sediment pore fluids. Uncertainty on the diffusivity of oxygen isotopes and chloride in sediments is reduced through inversion of the pore fluid profiles, but simultaneous estimation of δ^(18)O or salinity and diffusivity increases the total uncertainty. The error reported in previous work may underestimate the true uncertainty of LGM deep ocean salinity and δ^(18)O.

Additional Information

© 2015 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 25 September 2014, in final form 15 May 2015. M.D.M. thanks William Jenkins for introduction to the Lomb–Scargle periodogram and Eli Tziperman for many helpful discussions and constructive reviews of drafts of this manuscript.

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