One of the longest, most detailed quantitative records of oceanographic change in the Cenozoic is that provided by oxygen isotope measurements made on the tests of foraminifera. As indicated by measurements on benthic foraminifera, the deep waters of the world ocean have undergone an overall cooling of about 10??C in the Cenozoic. This change has been neither monotonic nor gradual. Rather, it is evidenced by a few, relatively rapid increases in the 13O content of the benthic shells. These "steps" in the isotopic record have been associated with major evolutionary changes in the mean state of the deep ocean. The variance around this mean state has also changed through the Cenozoic. From relatively high variance in the Middle Eocene, the oceans showed low variance in the Late Eocene and Oligocene. In the Miocene the variance of the isotopic measurement again increased, reaching a maximum of short duration in the Middle Miocene. This maximum as well as that which occurred during the Late Pliocene and Quaternary, may be attributable to fluctuations in the isotopic composition of the oceans caused by growth and decay of large ice sheets. In the Late Miocene the benthic oxygen isotopes in Atlantic sites less than 3000 m deep have a higher variance than sites at similar depths in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is thought that this high variance results from long-term changes in the importance of the cool and salty North Atlantic Deep Water relative to that of the warmer and less saline Antarctic Intermediate Water at Atlantic sites between 1000 m and 3000 m water depth. Such significant differences in benthic isotopic variance between the ocean basins have been demonstrated only in post-Middle Miocene intervals. ?? 1981.
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