Climatic and oceanographic variations during the last 2 m.y. of the Maastrichtian inferred from high-resolution (10 k.y.) stable isotope analysis of the mid-latitude South Atlantic Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 525 reveal a major warm pulse followed by rapid cooling prior to the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Between 66.85 and 65.52 Ma, cool but fluctuating temperatures average 9.9 and 15.4 °C in intermediate and surface waters, respectively. This interval is followed by an abrupt short-term warming between 65.45 and 65.11 Ma, which increased temperatures by 2–3 °C in intermediate waters, and decreased the vertical thermal gradient to an average of 2.7 °C. This warm pulse may be linked to increased atmospheric pCO2, increased poleward heat transport, and the switch of an intermediate water source from high to low-middle latitudes. During the last 100 k.y. of the Maastrichtian, intermediate and surface temperatures decreased by an average of 2.1 and 1.4 °C, respectively, compared to the maximum temperature between 65.32 and 65.24 Ma.