Three hundred eighty thousand year long stable isotope and faunal records from the Red Sea: Influence of global sea level change on hydrography


  • Christoph Hemleben,

  • Dieter Meischner,

  • Rainer Zahn,

  • Ahuva Almogi-Labin,

  • Helmut Erlenkeuser,

  • Birgit Hiller


Stable isotope and faunal records from the central Red Sea show high-amplitude oscillations for the past 380,000 years. Positive δ18O anomalies indicate periods of significant salt buildup during periods of lowered sea level when water mass exchange with the Arabian Sea was reduced due to a reduced geometry of the Bab el Mandeb Strait. Salinities as high as 53‰ and 55‰ are inferred from pteropod and benthic foraminifera δ18O, respectively, for the last glacial maximum. During this period all planktonic foraminifera vanished from this part of the Red Sea. Environmental conditions improved rapidly after 13 ka as salinities decreased due to rising sea level. The foraminiferal fauna started to reappear and was fully reestablished between 9 ka and 8 ka. Spectral analysis of the planktonic δ18O record documents highest variance in the orbital eccentricity, obliquity, and precession bands, indicating a dominant influence of climatically - driven sea level change on environmental conditions in the Red Sea. Variance in the precession band is enhanced compared to the global mean marine climate record (SPECMAP), suggesting an additional influence of the Indian monsoon system on Red Sea climates.