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Department of Earth Sciences

Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems


Research: Deep Ocean Circulatory Changes on Glacial-Interglacial Timescales

Collecting River Nile water samples for isotopic analysis of Nd and Sr

Collecting River Nile water samples for isotopic analysis of Nd and Sr

Currently I am working with Dr Luke Skinner, developing the application of coupled neodymium (Nd) isotopes and radiocarbon (14C) in sedimentary benthic foraminifera from the Atlantic Ocean. The purpose of this project is to enable tighter constraints to be placed upon exchange of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) between the atmosphere and the deep ocean across the last deglaciation. Radiocarbon is a useful tool, as it can tell us when carbon (i.e. CO2) has been transferred between the deep ocean and the atmosphere. A major challenge involved in the interpretation of deep-water radiocarbon reconstructions is the need to distinguish changes in deep-water sourcing from shifts in deep-water source signature and variations in deep-water renewal rates, all of which may affect radiocarbon concentration. A ‘dye tracer’ that can be directly combined with radiocarbon is therefore required. Although traditional palaeoceanographic proxies such as δ13C, Cd/Ca or deep-water temperature have been used to estimate changes in deep-water sourcing, these either do not behave as conservative tracers or else only indirectly represent water-mass sourcing. Novel proxies could potentially resolve this problem. Over the last decade, Nd isotopes have been applied as palaeoceanographic tracers, with some success, which is why Nd isotopes are being employed in this study.

The other main project on which I am working, with Dr Alex Piotrowski, is focused on circulation in the Norwegian Sea during the last ~60,000 years. Cool, dense waters from the Norwegian Sea flow across the Iceland-Scotland ridge and contribute to North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), a major component of the meridional overturning circulation that transports enormous quantities of heat around the planet. The aim of this work is to investigate whether or not the Nd isotope composition of water contributing to NADW has changed during the last full glacial cycle.

Other studies with Dr Alex Piotrowski involve the investigation of deep ocean circulatory changes in the Indian and Southern Oceans on glacial-interglacial timescales, using Nd isotopes in the authigenic Fe-Mn oxyhydroxide fraction of marine sediments. This oxyhydroxide phase is thought to record the Nd isotope composition of past bottom waters. 

As a graduate student I combined δ18O and Nd isotopes in planktonic foraminifera to investigate the genesis of organic carbon rich sediments known as sapropels in the eastern Mediterranean at various intervals in the geological past, and the periodic influence on this of increased River Nile outflow. Part of my research also involved measuring Nd isotopes on eastern Mediterranean seawater and River Nile water samples and looking at the distribution of Nd isotopes within the eastern Mediterranean basin. My work on Nd isotopes in planktonic foraminifera continues, but with the focus shifted to open ocean settings as opposed to semi-enclosed basins.


With Dr Alex Piotrowski I was involved in supervising a final year undergraduate project.


I was involved in writing the successful NERC grant funding applications NE/F006047/1 and NE/G010501/1.


Key publications: 
  • Piotrowski, A.M., Banakar, V.K., Scrivner, A.E., Elderfield, H., Galy, A., Dennis, A., 2009, Indian Ocean circulation and productivity during the last glacial cycle: Earth and Planetary Science Letters v. 285, p. 179-189.
  • Scrivner, A.E., Piotrowski, A.M., Elmore, A.C., Wright, J.D., Rosenthal, Y., 2009, Nd isotopes in the Norwegian Sea: Glacial-Interglacial ISOW variability?: Goldschmidt Conference Abstracts A1188.
  • Piotrowski, A.M., Galy, A., Yu, J., Scrivner, A.E., Nichol, J.A.L., Roberts, N.L., Wilson, D.R., Noble, T.L., 2009, Linking North and South Atlantic deep water circulation using Nd isotopes: Goldschmidt Conference Abstracts A1031.
  • Elmore, A.C., Piotrowski, A.M., Wright, D.J., Scrivner, A.E., 2009. Neodymium isotopic composition of North Atlantic Fe-Mn oxides: Goldschmidt Conference Abstracts A327.
  • Scrivner, A.E., Skinner, L.C., Vance, D., 2008, Benthic Foraminifer Nd Isotopes and Radiocarbon: a Preliminary Study: Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meeting Supplement PP23A-1464
  • Skinner, L.C., Fallon, S., Scrivner, A.E., Waelbroeck, C., Michel, E., 2008, Ventilation change in the deep Southern Ocean: a possible solution to the de-glacial radiocarbon 'mystery'?: Eos Trans. AGU, Fall Meeting Supplement PP52B-07
  • Scrivner, A.E., Piotrowski, A.M., Elmore, A.C., and Wright, J.D., 2008, Neodymium isotopic reconstruction of past North Atlantic surface and deep water compositions: Goldschmidt Conference Abstracts, A844.
  • Piotrowski, A.M., Banakar, V.K., Scrivner, A.E., and Elderfield, H., 2008, Indian Ocean circulation and productivity during the last glacial cycle: Goldschmidt Conference Abstracts, A752.
  • Scrivner, A.E., Piotrowski, A.M., Elmore, A.C., and Wright, J.D., 2008, Reconstructing past surface and deep water neodymium isotope compositions in the North Atlantic: Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, EGU2008-A-03943.
  • Piotrowski, A., Scrivner, A.E., Dennis, A., Elderfield, H., Banakar, V., Allen, C., and Pudsey, C., 2007, Emerging perspectives on deep-ocean circulation and nutrient storage from Nd isotope records: ESF-FWF Conference in Partnership with LFUI “Ocean Controls in Abrupt Climate Change”. Published: Universitätszentrum Obergurgl.
  • Scrivner, A.E., Vance, D., and Rohling, E.J., 2004, New Neodymium isotope data quantifies Nile involvement in Mediterranean anoxic episodes: Geology, v. 32, p. 565-568.
  • Vance, D., Scrivner, A.E., Beney, P., Staubwasser, M., Henderson, G.M., and Slowey, N.C., 2004, The use of planktic foraminifera as a record of the past neodymium isotope composition of surface seawater: Paleoceanography, v. 19, doi: 10.1029/2003PA000957.
  • Scrivner, A., Vance, D. and Rohling, E., 2002, Nd data for the Nile, eastern Mediterranean and foraminifera document Nile outflow increases during S1 and S5: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 66, (15A), p.A694.
  • Scrivner, A.E., Vance, D., and Rohling, E.J., 2001, Neodymium Isotope data for Foraminifera Indicate Increased Nile Outflow During Mediterranean Anoxic Events: Eos Trans. AGU, 82(47), Fall Meeting Supplement.

Older Publications by Dr Adam Scrivner

Research Associate

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