- The deep-ocean circulation is responsible for a significant component of global heat transport. In the present mode of circulation, deep waters form in the North Atlantic and Southern oceans where surface water becomes sufficiently cold and dense to sink. Polar temperatures during the warmest climatic interval of the Cenozoic era (approximately 65 to 40 million years (Myr) ago) were significantly warmer than today, and this may have been a consequence of enhanced oceanic heat transport. However, understanding the relationship between deep-ocean circulation and ancient climate is complicated by differences in oceanic gateways, which affect where deep waters form and how they circulate. Here I report records of neodymium isotopes from two cores in the Pacific Ocean that indicate a shift in deep-water production from the Southern Ocean to the North Pacific approximately 65 Myr ago. The source of deep waters reverted back to the Southern Ocean 40 Myr ago. The relative timing of changes in the neodymium and oxygen isotope records indicates that changes in Cenozoic deep-water circulation patterns were the consequence, not the cause, of extreme Cenozoic warmth.