Oceanographic and climatic evolution of the southeastern subtropical Atlantic over the last 3.5 Ma

Benjamin Petrick*, Erin McClymont, Kate Littler, Antoni Rosell-Melé, Matthew Clarkson, M Maslin, Ursula Röhl, Amelia E. Shevenell, Rich Pancost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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The southeast Atlantic Ocean is dominated by two major oceanic systems: the Benguela Upwelling System, one of the world's most productive coastal upwelling cells and the Agulhas Leakage, which is important for transferring warm salty water from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Here, we present a multi-proxy record of marine sediments from ODP Site 1087. We reconstruct sea surface temperatures (U37 K and TEX86 indices), marine primary productivity (total chlorin and alkenone mass accumulation rates), and terrestrial inputs derived from southern Africa (Ti/Al and Ca/Ti via XRF scanning) to understand the evolution of the Southeast Atlantic Ocean since the late Pliocene. In the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene, ODP Site 1087 was situated within the Benguela Upwelling System, which was displaced southwards relative to present. We recognize a series of events in the proxy records at 3.3, 3.0, 2.2, 1.5, 0.9 and 0.6 Ma, which are interpreted to reflect a combination of changes in the location of major global wind and oceanic systems and local variations in the strength and/or position of the winds, which influence nutrient availability. Although there is a temporary SST cooling observed around the initiation of Northern Hemisphere glaciation (iNHG), proxy records from ODP Site 1087 show no clear climatic transition around 2.7 Ma but instead most of the changes occur before this time. This observation is significant because it has been previously suggested that there should be a change in the location and/or strength of upwelling associated with this climate transition. Rather, the main shifts at ODP Site 1087 occur at ca. 0.9 Ma and 0.6 Ma, associated with the early mid-Pleistocene transition (EMPT), with a clear loss of the previous upwelling-dominated regime. This observation raises the possibility that reorganisation of southeast Atlantic Ocean circulation towards modern conditions was tightly linked to the EMPT, but not to earlier climate transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date9 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2018


  • Aguhlas Leakage
  • Benguela Upwelling
  • EMPT
  • Plio–Plistocene


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