The Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT) marks a major step within the Cenozoic climate in going from a greenhouse into an icehouse state, with the formation of a continental-scale Antarctic ice sheet. The roles of steadily decreasing CO2 concentrations versus changes in ocean circulation at the EOT are still debated and the threshold for Antarctic glaciation is obscured by uncertainties in global geometry. Here, a detailed study of the late Eocene ocean circulation is carried out using an ocean general circulation model under two slightly different geography reconstructions of the middle-to-late Eocene (38 Ma). Using the same atmospheric forcing, both geographies give a profoundly different equilibrium ocean circulation state. The underlying reason for this sensitivity is the presence of multiple equilibria characterised by either North or South Pacific deep water formation. A possible shift from a southern towards a northern overturning circulation would result in significant changes in the global heat distribution and consequently make the Southern Hemisphere climate more susceptible for significant cooling and ice sheet formation on Antarctica.
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Keywords Global ocean circulation, Multiple states, Paleobathymetry, Past climate transitions
Persistent URL
Journal Global and Planetary Change
Baatsen, M.L.J, von der Heydt, A.S, Kliphuis, M, Viebahn, J.P, & Dijkstra, H.A. (2018). Multiple states in the late Eocene ocean circulation. Global and Planetary Change, 163, 18–28. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2018.02.009