A 600,000-year record of Antarctic Bottom Water activity inferred from sediment textures and structures in a sediment core from the Southern Brazil Basin


  • Laurent Massé,

  • Jean-Claude Faugères,

  • Michel Bernat,

  • Annick Pujos,

  • Marie-Laure Mézerais


At the northern exit of the Vema Channel, in the Southern Brazil Basin, deep currents linked with Antarctic Bottom Water flow (AABW, below 4200 m) have formed contouritic accumulations along the continental rise. Lithologic and textural investigations were carried out on a Kullenberg core in order to establish a chronology of late Pleistocene-Holocene fluctuations in AABW flow. The core, spanning the last 600,000 years, was recovered from a field of sediment waves. The deposits consist of fine grained muds. Carbonate contents are very low because deposition takes place near the present-day carbonate compensation depth. The core stratigraphic framework is based on calcareous nannofossil and excess 230Th analyses. Two main types of facies can be identified: (1) yellowish brown muds, with frequent manganese enrichments forming dark laminae, and (2) homogeneous gray-green muds. Two indicators of paleocurrent activity have been considered: (1) erosional sediment features that give evidence for high amplitude and short-term current events, and (2) grain size fluctuations (percentage of panicles greater than 10 µm), indicating low amplitude and long-term variations. Two periods can be defined. The first one (circa 600 to circa 350 kyr B.P.) is characterized by an instability in current activity, with strong flow events recorded as erosional surfaces. Long-term fluctuations reveal the existence of several episodes of increased velocity occurring approximately every 50 kyr. The second period (350 kyr B.P. to present) is marked by globally weaker current activity and long-term fluctuations of lower amplitude and longer duration. Maximum velocities occur preferentially during periods of climatic cooling. These fluctuations might be correlated with the 100 kyr eccentricity cycle of the Earth's orbit.