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Holocene sediment transport and climate variability of offshore Adélie Land, East Antarctica

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posted on 2021-11-22, 01:41 authored by Albot, Anna Borisovna

Grain size analysis of the terrigenous fraction of a laminated diatom ooze dating back to 11.4 kyr recovered offshore Adélie Land, East Antarctic margin was used to examine variations in sediment transport, depositional environments and Holocene climate variability at the location. Interpretations were assisted by additional proxies of primary productivity (δ¹³CFA, BSi%), glacial meltwater input (δDFA) and subsurface temperature (TEXL₈₆). Three lithologic intervals with distinct grain size distributions were identified. At ~11.4 ka the diatom ooze has a clear glacimarine influence which gradually decreases until ~8.2 ka. During this time interval, coincident with the early Holocene warm period, sediment is inferred to have been delivered by glacial meltwater plumes and ice-bergs in a calving bay environment. It is suggested that the glaciers in Adélie Land had retreated to their present day grounding lines by 8.2 ka, and from then on sediment was delivered to the site primarily via the Antarctic Coastal and Slope Front Currents, largely through a suspended sediment load and erosion of the surrounding banks. Enhanced biogenic mass accumulation rates and primary production at 8.2 ka suggest onset of warmer climatic conditions, coincident with the mid-Holocene Climatic Optimum.  At ~4.5 ka, grain size distributions show a rapid increase in mud content coincident with a transient pulse of glacial meltwater and a sudden decrease in biogenic and terrigenous mass accumulation rates. The increased mud content is inferred to have been deposited under a reduced flow regime of the Antarctic Coastal and Slope Front Currents during the Neoglacial period that followed the final stages of deglaciation in the Ross Sea. It is hypothesised here that cessation of glacial retreat in the Ross Sea and the development of the modern day Ross Sea polynya resulted in enhanced Antarctic Surface Water production which led to increased sea ice growth in the Adélie Land region. The presence of sea ice led to reduced primary production and a decrease in the maximum current strength acting to advect coarser-sized terrigenous sediment to the core site during this time.  Sedimentation rates appear to have a strong correlation with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) over the last 8.2 kyr, and are inferred to be related to changing sea ice extent and zonal wind strength. Light laminae counts (biogenic bloom events) appear to decrease in frequency during time intervals dominated by El Niño events. Spectral analysis of the greyscale values of core photographs reveals peaks in the 2-7 year band, known ENSO periods, which increase in frequency in the mid-and-late Holocene. Spectral analyses of the sand percent and natural gamma ray (NGR, a measure of clay mineral input) content of the core reveal peaks in the ~40-60, 200-300, 600, 1200-1600 and 2200-2400 year bands. The most significant of these cycles in the NGR data is in 40-60 year band may be related to internal mass balance dynamics of the Mertz Glacier or to the expansion and contraction of the Antarctic circumpolar vortex. Cycles in the 200-300 and 2200-2400 year bands are related to known periods of solar variability, which have previously been found to regulate primary productivity in Antarctic coastal waters. Cycles in the 590-625 and 1200-1600 year bands have a strong signal through the entire record and are common features of Holocene climatic records, however the origin of these cycles is still under debate between solar forcing and an independent mode of internal ocean oscillation.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Carter, Lionel; McKay, Rob