A high-resolution Late Quaternary upwelling record from the anoxic Cariaco Basin, Venezuela


  • L. C. Peterson,

  • J. T. Overpeck,

  • N. G. Kipp,

  • J. Imbrie


Results are presented of a high-resolution study of the planktonic foraminiferal faunas from two piston cores recovered from the Cariaco Basin in the southern Caribbean Sea. The Cariaco Basin is a small anoxic marine basin on the northern continental margin of Venezuela in an area today characterized by both seasonal trade wind-induced upwelling and pronounced dry and wet seasons. Our data indicate that large changes in the intensity of upwelling, and hence trade wind strength, occurred in this region during the last glacial-interglacial transition and throughout the Holocene. During the last glacial lowstand of sea level, the Cariaco Basin was effectively isolated from the open Caribbean along its northern margin by the then largely emergent Tortuga Bank. Oxic conditions existed in the deep Cariaco Basin at this time, and surface productivity was low. About 12,600 years ago, the abrupt initiation of strong upwelling over the basin and the onset of permanent anoxia in the deep waters are coincident with the rapid rise of sea level that accompanied the peak interval of meltwater discharge from the Laurentide Ice Sheet into the Gulf of Mexico. Strong upwelling between 12,600 and about 10,000 years ago may be related to intensified trade winds resulting, in part, from cooler sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. After about 10,000 years ago, upwelling intensity was reduced, though highly variable. A preliminary frequency domain analysis of the Holocene portion of the Cariaco Basin time series suggests that solar forcing may explain a significant component of the century-scale variability observed in the record of upwelling and trade wind strength.