Past glacial-interglacial climate transitions were accompanied by millennial-scale pulses in atmospheric CO2 that are widely thought to have resulted from the release of CO2 via the Southern Ocean. However, direct proxy evidence for a Southern Ocean role in regulating past ocean-atmosphere CO2 exchange is scarce. Here we use combined radiocarbon and neodymium isotope measurements from the last deglaciation to confirm greatly enhanced overturning and/or air-sea exchange rates relative to today, in particular during the Bølling-Allerød warm interval. We show that this deglacial pulse in ocean ventilation was not driven by the North Atlantic overturning alone, and must have involved an increase in the ventilation of southern-sourced deep waters. Our results thus confirm the removal of a physical and/or dynamical barrier to effective air-sea (CO2) exchange in the Southern Ocean during deglaciation, and highlight the Antarctic region as a key locus for global climate/carbon-cycle feedbacks.

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