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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2017-20
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2017-20
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 27 Apr 2017

Research article | 27 Apr 2017

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD). A final paper in ESD is not foreseen.

Evaporative fractionation of H218O in the polar ocean and the invisibility of large changes of ice volume and sea level in the Saalian δ18O proxy records

Robert G. Johnson Robert G. Johnson
  • Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, 310 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis MN 55455-0231

Abstract. The oxygen isotope ratio, δ18O, as measured in skeletons of oceanic foraminifera, is a proxy for changes in world glacial ice volume and sea level and is of fundamental importance in the study of past climate change. However, in the Late Saalian glaciation the δ18O proxy reflects neither a large increase in glacial ice volume from 155 ka–142 ka nor the subsequent major deglaciation from 142 ka–136.5 ka in which sea level rose from about −140 m to +4 m at the end of the Drenthe sub stage. This deglaciation was caused by a large reduction in the ice sheet moisture supply due to storm path diversion associated with the loss of thermohaline circulation and the capping of the high latitude North Atlantic with melt water that passed through the Mediterranean Sea from the overflow of a giant ice-blocked Siberian lake. The δ18O proxy also fails to record the subsequent ice volume buildup of the Warthe substage in which sea level fell about 80 m. The explanation for the invisibility involves the fractionation and sequestration of large mounts of H218O in the effectively isolated and sea-ice-free polar ocean. The sequestration and subsequent release of polar water, enriched in H218O, distorted the fractionation record in the world ocean and destroyed the accuracy of the δ18O proxy. The proposed physical consequences of the ice-free polar ocean also include a sea-ice-free Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay and an oceanic circulation mode that drove the Drenthe substage glaciation to its maximum extent in Eurasia. The initial cause for the anomalous effects in the δ18O record was the known ice-flow blockage of all the Siberian rivers that discharge into the polar ocean west of the Lena River. Without adequate stratification by inflowing fresh river water, sea ice was unable to freeze on the deep polar ocean and the fractionation and the physical changes in the polar ocean that are proposed here followed.

Robert G. Johnson
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Robert G. Johnson
Robert G. Johnson
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Short summary
Beginning about 150,000 yrs ago glacial ice blocked rivers flowing into the polar ocean and this prevented freezing of sea ice there. Evaporation of polar water then concentrated water containing H218O. In the proxy isotope record, this concealed a major world deglaciation that is contrary to the theory of direct control of glaciation by solar melting. This research began 26 yrs ago with a study of the fossil high sea level reefs on Barbados caused by that unexpected deglaciation.
Beginning about 150,000 yrs ago glacial ice blocked rivers flowing into the polar ocean and this...
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