Holocene climate and deep ocean circulation changes: Evidence from accelerator mass spectrometer radiocarbon dated Argentine Basin (SW Atlantic) mudwaves


  • Glenn A. Jones


The first radiocarbon chronology for sediments of the Argentine basin has been determined using accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) analyses of 54 total organic carbon samples from four box and two piston cores collected from the downstream and upstream sides of two central Argentine Basin mudwaves. Throughout the Holocene, sediment from the geomorphically defined upstream side of each wave accumulated at rates of 30 to 105 cm/1000 years. Sediments from the downstream side of each wave accumulated at rates of 2 to 10 cm/1000 years in the late and early Holocene, while the mid Holocene is characterized by sedimentation rates less than 1.0 cm/1000 years. During the mid-Holocene, increased aridity reduced chemical weathering and the flow of the rivers draining to the continental shelf, causing a concomitant decrease in fine-grained terrigenous input to the basin as evidenced by decreased sedimentation rates, lower N/C ratios, and depleted δ13Corg values. It is estimated that all of the organic carbon deposited in the central basin during the mid-Holocene was of a marine origin. During the late and early Holocene, however, approximately 35% of the organic carbon deposited was of terrestrial origin. Bottom water flow speeds in the late Holocene were estimated using a lee-wave model and found to average 14 cm s−1. This estimate is comparable to 10 cm s−1 mean and 15–20 cm s−1 maximum flow speeds measured by current meters deployed within the basin. Flow speeds in the Argentine Basin were 10% higher than today from 8000 to 2000 B.P., and are consistent with a general invigoration of thermohaline circulation that began between 9000 and 8000 B.P. It is proposed that the introduction of warm, salty Indian Ocean water into the northern North Atlantic at 9000 B.P. was the mechanism that provided the excess salt needed to stabilize the North Atlantic Deep Water thermohaline circulation system in its present mode.