Quantifying past circulation is a vital part of testing our understanding of the modern and future climate system. The isotopic composition of neodymium (Nd) in marine precipitates has considerable promise as a recorder of past circulation patterns, but its robust application requires knowledge of the end-member compositions in order to correctly deconvolute a downstream signal. We show here, using in situ, high temporal resolution analyses of ferro-manganese crusts from the North Atlantic, that the Nd isotopic composition of deep water during times of much more extensive Northern Hemisphere ice cover was no different than the modern-day interglacial value. This result is surprising, but greatly simplifies the use of Nd isotopes as tracers of the strength and patterns of circulation in the Atlantic in the past.

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