The integrated effects of ocean-climate dynamics on export production in the North Pacific have remained elusive. We present a 91 k.y. export productivity (EP) record based on sedimentary reactive phosphorus from the western subtropical North Pacific. On a millennial time scale, EP decreased during Northern Hemisphere cold events when atmospheric dust loading was high, and increased during warm episodes. The inferred antiphase relation between dust and EP suggests that the supply of macronutrients to the sunlit surface ocean, modulated by the penetration depth of North Pacific Intermediate Water and not eolian Fe, exerted a major control on EP in the subtropical North Pacific. A compilation of global EP records suggests that eolian Fe most likely played a role in stimulating EP regionally only in the Subantarctic zone of the Southern Ocean. Over the past 91 k.y., during the cold-south–warm-north phase of the bipolar seesaw, the biological pump in both hemispheres was enhanced synchronously, yet by different drivers; atmospheric Fe input for the Subantarctic and subsurface macronutrient supply for the North Pacific, including the tropical and/or subtropical Pacific, and the Antarctic zone of the Southern Ocean.

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