Oceanic circulation changes during early Pliocene marine ice-sheet instability in Wilkes Land, East Antarctica
In the Southern Ocean, unconstrained Westerlies allow for intense mixing between deep waters and the atmosphere. How this system interacts with Antarctic ice sheets and the global ocean circulation is poorly understood due to a paucity of data. The poor abundance and preservation of foraminiferal carbonate in ice-proximal sediments is a major challenge in high-latitude paleoceanography. A new approach is to examine a sediment geochemical record of changing paleoproductivity and sediment redox environment that can be tied to changes in water mass properties. This study focuses on the paleoceanography of the George V Land margin between ~4.7 and 4.3 Ma. This interval at the onset of the early Pliocene Climatic Optimum was characterized by the highest global sea surface temperatures and the lowest sea ice concentrations in East Antarctica in the past 5 million years. At IODP Site U1359, an abrupt increase in Mn/Al ratios ~4.6 Ma indicates an episode of oxic bottom conditions resulting from enhanced wind-driven downwelling of Antarctic surface water. Above, extremely high concentrations of sedimentary barite (Ba excess >40,000 ppm) point to biogenic barite deposition, preservation, and concentration through enhanced upwelling of nutrient-rich Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW). Incursion of CDW onto the continental shelf affected ice discharge and resulted in a stable but reduced ice-sheet configuration over several glacial cycles. The geochemical results along with previous work on Site U1359 for the first time link paleoceanography and cryospheric change based on data from the same high-latitude site.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (award OCE 1060080 to S.P.). Samples were provided by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Insightful comments from anonymous reviewers and the journal editors helped to improve the manuscript.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest with third parties.
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