Abstract

Differences in regional responses to climate fluctuations are well documented on short time scales (e.g., El Niño–Southern Oscillation), but with the exception of latitudinal temperature gradients, regional patterns are seldom considered in discussions of ancient greenhouse climates. Contrary to the expectation of global warming or global cooling implicit in most treatments of climate evolution over millions of years, this paper shows that the North Atlantic warmed by as much as 6 °C (1.5‰ decrease in δ18O values of planktic foraminifera) during the Maastrichtian global cooling interval. We suggest that warming was the result of the importation of heat from the South Atlantic. Decreasing North Atlantic δ18O values are also associated with increasing gradients in planktic δ13C values, suggesting increasing surface-water stratification and a correlated strengthening of the North Atlantic Polar Front. If correct, this conclusion predicts arctic cooling during the late Maastrichtian. Beyond implications for the Maastrichtian, these data demonstrate that climate does not behave as if there is a simple global thermostat, even on geologic time scales.

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