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Carbon isotopic equilibrium of the surface waters as a proxy for climate change through the last glacial/interglacial cycle in the Southwest Pacific

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posted on 22.11.2021, 11:06 by Maxson IV, Charles Reynolds

Carbon-13 is a relatively understudied geochemical property in the world ocean. The Southwest Pacific, in particular, is devoid of δ¹³C data. This thesis therefore has two main objectives: to create a model to describe the modern distribution of δ¹³C around New Zealand (30-70°S, 140°E-150°W), and to describe changes in δ¹³C in a latitudinal transect of cores to the east and south of New Zealand. A model using multiple linear regression was created by comparing δ¹³C with potential temperature, salinity, density, and oxygen data. This model matches well with ship board δ¹³C measurements taken throughout the region. The resulting models were then compared to core top data to determine how well modern δ¹³C values compare to the Holocene, pre-industrial values. A new model, based on previous pre-industrial models, was created at much higher resolution to recreate the pre-industrial δ¹³C distribution. Core top values were found to be intermediate between Holocene and modern values. Down core δ¹³C data was split into six regions based on oceanographic conditions to determine what caused and how δ¹³C change occurred in the past. Data was run through 1000 iterations of a Monte Carlo simulation to determine a robust δ¹³C curve back through time. The biologic pump was found to dominate the δ¹³C levels in the region through iron fertilization and increased productivity in the polar zone. The LGM and deglacial δ¹³C values reflect greater influence on δ¹³Catm, suggesting that an increase in upwelling along the Antarctic coast and a possible strengthening of the westerly wind belt caused changes in ocean circulation throughout the region. The ACR and Early Holocene periods show good correlation with atmospheric CO₂ records, suggesting increasing temperatures may have increased productivity. The remainder of the Holocene to the present is mainly influenced by δ¹³Catm, suggesting relatively stable conditions in ocean and atmosphere.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Bostock, Helen; Mackintosh, Andrew