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Marine gateways play a critical role in the exchange of water, heat, salt and nutrients between oceans and seas. As a result, changes in gateway geometry can significantly alter both the pattern of global ocean circulation and associated heat transport and climate, as well as having a profound impact on local environmental conditions. Mediterranean-Atlantic marine corridors that pre-date the modern Gibraltar Strait, closed during the Late Miocene and are now exposed on land in northern Morocco and southern Spain. The restriction and closure of these Miocene connections resulted in extreme salinity fluctuations in the Mediterranean, leading to the precipitation of thick evaporites. This event is known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). The evolution and closure of the Mediterranean-Atlantic gateways are a critical control on the MSC, but at present the location, geometry and age of these gateways are still highly controversial, as is the impact of changing Mediterranean outflow on Northern Hemisphere circulation. Here, we present a comprehensive overview of the evolution of the Late Miocene gateways and the nature of Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange as deduced from published studies focussed both on the sediments preserved within the fossil corridors and inferences that can be derived from data in the adjacent basins. We also consider the possible impact of evolving exchange on both the Mediterranean and global climate and highlight the main enduring challenges for reconstructing past Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange.
Bibliographical noteDate of Acceptance: 19/08/2015
- Marine gateways
- Messinian Salinity Crisis