Coupled radiocarbon and thorium-230 dates from benthic coral species reveal that the ventilation rate of the North Atlantic upper deep water varied greatly during the last deglaciation. Radiocarbon ages in several corals of the same age, 15.41 ± 0.17 thousand years, and nearly the same depth, 1800 meters, in the western North Atlantic Ocean increased by as much as 670 years during the 30- to 160-year life spans of the samples. Cadmium/calcium ratios in one coral imply that the nutrient content of these deep waters also increased. Our data show that the deep ocean changed on decadal-centennial time scales during rapid changes in the surface ocean and the atmosphere.
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