Vertical decoupling in Late Ordovician anoxia due to reorganization of ocean circulation

Alexandre Pohl, Zunli Lu, Wanyi Lu, Richard G. Stockey, Maya Elrick, Menghan Li, André Desrochers, Yanan Shen, Ruliang He, Seth Finnegan, Andy Ridgwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Geochemical redox proxies indicate that seafloor anoxia occurred during the latest Ordovician glacial maximum, coincident with the second pulse of the Late Ordovician mass extinction. However, expanded anoxia in a glacial climate strikingly contrasts with the warming-associated Mesozoic anoxic events and raises questions as to both the causal mechanism of ocean deoxygenation and its relationship with extinction. Here we firstly report iodine-to-calcium ratio (I/Ca) data that document increased upper-ocean oxygenation despite the concurrent expansion of seafloor anoxia. We then resolve these apparently conflicting observations as well as their relationship to global climate by means of a series of Earth system model simulations. Applying available Late Ordovician (Hirnantian) sea-surface temperature estimates from oxygen isotope studies as constraints, alongside our I/Ca data, leads us to identify a scenario in which Hirnantian glacial conditions permit both the spread of seafloor anoxia and increased upper-ocean oxygenation. Our simulated mechanism of a reorganization of global ocean circulation, with reduced importance of northern-sourced waters and a poorer ventilated and deoxygenated deep ocean has parallels with Pleistocene state transitions in Atlantic meridional overturning (despite a very different continental configuration) and suggests that no simple and predictable relationship between past climate state and oxygenation may exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)868-873
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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