Variability in Late Cretaceous climate and deep waters: Evidence from stable isotopes

Liangquan Li, Gerta Keller

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130 Scopus citations


Strong climatic and temperature fluctuations mark the Late Campanian and Maastrichtian as indicated by stable isotope records from the equatorial Pacific (Site 463) and middle and high latitude South Atlantic (Sites 525, 689 and 690). The first major global cooling decreased intermediate water temperatures (IWT) by 5-6°C between 73-70 Ma. At the same time, sea surface temperature (SST) decreased by 4-5°C in middle and high latitudes. Intermediate waters (IW) temporarily warmed by 2°C in low and middle latitudes between 70-68.5 Ma. Global cooling resumed between 68.5-65.5 Ma when IWT decreased by 3-4°C and SST by 5°C in middle latitudes. About 450 ka before the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary rapid global warming increased IWT and SST by 3-4°C, though SST in the tropics changed little. During the last 200 ka of the Maastrichtian, climate cooled rapidly with IWT and SST decreasing by 2-3°C. During the global cooling at 71-70 Ma and possibly at 67-65.5 Ma, the sources of cold intermediate waters in the equatorial Pacific, Indo-Pacific and South Atlantic were derived from the high latitude North Pacific. In contrast, during the global climate warming between 65.2-65.4 Ma, the middle latitude South Atlantic was closest to the source of IW production and implies that the low latitude Tethys played a major role in global climate change. Climate changes, sea-level fluctuations and associated restricted seaways appear to be the most likely mechanisms for the alternating sources of IW production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Oct 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Climate
  • Deep-water
  • Maastrichtian
  • Stable isotopes


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