Oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns varied considerably during the Tertiary and Quaternary and influenced the geochemical cycles of elements in seawater. We report the first resolution lead and neodymium isotopic record of such changes at a high time resolution in two depths profiles from a hydrogenous FeMn crust. The crust, Va13-2, is located in the central Pacific (146°W, 9°25′N, 4830 m) and has previously been dated by 230Th and 10Be. The first profile was drilled with a sample time resolution of ∼3 kyr and allows evaluation of short-term changes to lead and neodymium sources to central Pacific seawater over the last 400 kyr (marine δ18O stages 2 to 11). Longer-term changes were monitored at lower time resolution in a second profile to an age of 10 Ma.
Short-term variations in lead and neodymium isotope ratios are resolved in the high resolution profile (0 to 400 kyr). Superimposed on the short-term variations is a secular decrease in Full-size image (〈1 K) ratios beginning at ∼130 kyr in marine δ18O stage 5, implying a change in the lead sources to the central Pacific. Lead and neodymium isotopic compositions indicate an increased influence from Central American eolian sources to Pacific seawater at this time. Lead isotopes are found to be statistically more variable during interglacial than glacial periods. These observations are supported by the greater eolian dust fluxes found in sediment cores from the equatorial Pacific during interglacial stages.
The most important paleoceanographic event of the last 10 Ma to affect Pacific seawater was the closure of the Panama gateway. Changes in lead and neodymium isotopes in Val3-2 during the last 10 Ma occurred along with gradual closure of the Panama straits. However, these changes did not occur in tandem: while neodymium isotope ratios increase between 10 and 8 Ma, lead isotope ratios remain constant. In contrast, the period 7 to 1 Ma is marked by a secular increase in lead isotope ratios but nearly constant neodymium. These changes are consistent with a source of radiogenic lead and neodymium conveyed by the Circumpolar Current into the Pacific, rather than by the Panama gateway, and involve 20 to 40% Southern Component Water (SCW) input of lead and neodymium. Modelling of lead and neodymium isotopic mixing between the different water masses involved in generating Pacific deep waters lead us to the following conclusions: (1) Small variations in the strength and composition of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) have a relatively minor effect on the amounts of lead and neodymium from SCW contributing to the Pacific and (2) an enhanced SCW flow with an open isthmus of Panama, as suggested by General Circulation Models (GCM), requires a corresponding reduction in NADW Pb and Nd contributions to SCW.
The general agreement between the isotopic compositions of surface layers of Mn nodules, integrated over such long time intervals, and those of present-day bottom waters at their respective locations show that the present-day ocean circulation pattern has dominated through the Pleistocene. Our study of Mn crust Va13-2 shows that shorter-term changes in lead and neodymium isotope ratios can be resolved, provided that such crusts are sampled at an appropriate time resolution.