The spatial distribution of aeolian dust and terrigenous fluxes in the tropical Atlantic Ocean since the Last Glacial Maximum

George H Rowland*, Laura F Robinson, Katharine Hendry, Hong Chin Ng, David McGee, Jerry McManus

*Corresponding author for this work

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

7 Citations (Scopus)
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The flux of terrestrial material from the continents to the oceans links the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere through physical and biogeochemical processes, with important implications for Earth's climate. Quantitative estimates of terrigenous fluxes from sources such as rivers, aeolian dust, and resuspended shelf sediments are required to understand how the processes delivering terrigenous material respond to and are influenced by climate. We compile thorium‐230 normalized 232Th flux records in the tropical Atlantic to provide an improved understanding of aeolian fluxes since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). By identifying and isolating sites dominated by aeolian terrigenous inputs, we show that there was a persistent meridional gradient in dust fluxes in the eastern equatorial Atlantic at the LGM, arguing against a large southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone during LGM boreal winter. The ratio of LGM to late‐Holocene 232Th fluxes highlights a meridional difference in the magnitude of variations in dust deposition, with sites <10°N showing larger changes over time. This supports an interpretation of increased trade wind strength at the LGM, potentially combined with differential changes in soil moisture and reductions in higher altitude summer winds. Our results also highlight the persistent importance of continental margins as sources of high terrigenous flux to the open ocean. This is especially evident in the western tropical Atlantic, where study locations reveal the primary influence of the South American continent up to >700 km away, characterized by 232Th fluxes approximately twice as large as aeolian‐dominated sites in the east.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020PA004148
Number of pages17
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
G. H. Rowland was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council studentship (Grant NE/L002434/1). The contribution of J. F. McManus was supported in part by the US‐NSF. The authors thank Walter Giebert and David Naafs for helpful discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • Dust
  • thorium
  • intertropical convergence zone
  • tropical Atlantic
  • last glacial maximum,
  • fluxes


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