University of Tasmania

File(s) not publicly available

Glacial-interglacial sea surface temperature changes across the subtropical front east of New Zealand based on alkenone unsaturation ratios and foraminiferal assemblages

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 13:59 authored by Sikes, EL, Howard, W, Neil, HL, Volkman, JK
We present sea surface temperature (SST) estimates based on the relative abundances of long-chain C37 alkenones (U37 K′) in four sediment cores from a transect spanning the subtropical to subantartic waters across the subtropical front east of New Zealand. SST estimates from U37 K′ are compared to those derived from foraminiferal assemblages (using the modern analog technique) in two of these cores. Reconstructions of SST in core tops and Holocene sediments agree well with modern average summer temperatures of ∼18°C in subtropical waters and ∼14°C in subpolar waters, with a 4°-5°C gradient across the front. Down core U37 K′ SST estimates indicate that the regional summer SST was 4°-5°C cooler during the last glaciation with an SST of ∼10°C in subpolar waters and an SST of ∼14°C in subtropical waters. Temperature reconstructions from foraminiferal assemblages agree with those derived from alkenones for the Holocene. In subtropical waters, reconstructions also agree with a glacial cooling of 4° to ∼14°C. In contrast, reconstructions for subantartic pre-Holocene waters indicate a cooling of 8°C with glacial age warm season water temperatures of ∼6°C. Thus the alkenones suggest the glacial temperature gradient across the front was the same or reduced slightly to 3.5°-4°C, whereas foraminiferal reconstructions suggest it doubled to 8°C. Our results support previous work indicating that the STF remained fixed over the Chatham Rise during the Last Glacial Maximum. However, the differing results from the two techniques require additional explanation. A change in euphotic zone temperature profiles, seasonality of growth, or preferred growth depth must have affected the temperatures recorded by these biologically based proxies. Regardless of the specific reason, a differential response to the environmental changes between the two climate regimes by the organisms on which the estimates are based suggests increased updwelling associated with increased winds and/or a shallowing of the thermocline associated with increased stratification of the surface layer in the last glaciation.


Publication title









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


American Geophysical Union

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Social impacts of climate change and variability

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania


    Ref. manager