The production of cold, deep waters in the Southern Ocean is an important factor in the Earth's heat budget1. The supply of deep water to the Pacific Ocean is presently dominated by a single source, the deep western boundary current east of New Zealand. Here we use sediment records deposited under the influence of this deep western boundary current to reconstruct deep-water properties and speed changes during the Pleistocene epoch. In physical and isotope proxies we find evidence for intensified deep Pacific Ocean inflow and ventilation during the glacial periods of the past 1.2 million years. The changes in throughflow may be directly related to an increased production of Antarctic Bottom Water during glacial times. Possible causes for such an increased bottom-water production include increasing wind strengths in the Southern Ocean or an increase in annual sea-ice formation, leaving dense water after brine rejection and thereby enhancing deep convection. We infer also that the global thermohaline circulation was perturbed significantly during the mid-Pleistocene climate transition between 0.86 and 0.45 million years ago.
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We thank A. Fulop, M. Hall, L. Tiegang, P. Knutz and N. Walsh for experimental assistance, and the captain, crew and shipboard scientific party of Leg 181 for their help. Samples were provided by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP), with the support of the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK ODP.
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Hall, I., McCave, I., Shackleton, N. et al. Intensified deep Pacific inflow and ventilation in Pleistocene glacial times. Nature 412, 809–812 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35090552
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