Cenozoic evolution of Antarctic glaciation, the circum-Antarctic Ocean, and their impact on global paleoceanography
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
Copyright 1977 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research
Oceans and Atmospheres
Volume 82, Issue 27, pages 3843–3860, 20 September 1977
How to Cite
1977), Cenozoic evolution of Antarctic glaciation, the circum-Antarctic Ocean, and their impact on global paleoceanography, J. Geophys. Res., 82(27), 3843–3860, doi:10.1029/JC082i027p03843.(
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 7 APR 1977
- Manuscript Received: 24 NOV 1976
Deep-sea drilling in the Antarctic region (Deep-Sea Drilling Project legs 28, 29, 35, and 36) has provided many new data about the development of circum-Antarctic circulation and the closely related glacial evolution of Antarctica. The Antarctic continent has been in a high-latitude position since the middle to late Mesozoic. Glaciation commenced much later, in the middle Tertiary, demonstrating that near-polar position is not sufficient for glacial development. Instead, continental glaciation developed as the present-day Southern Ocean circulation system became established when obstructing land masses moved aside. During the Paleocene (t = ∼65 to 55 m.y. ago), Australia and Antarctica were joined. In the early Eocene (t = ∼55 m.y. ago), Australia began to drift northward from Antarctica, forming an ocean, although circum-Antarctic flow was blocked by the continental South Tasman Rise and Tasmania. During the Eocene (t = 55 to 38 m.y. ago) the Southern Ocean was relatively warm and the continent largely nonglaciated. Cool temperate vegetation existed in some regions. By the late Eocene (t = ∼39 m.y. ago) a shallow water connection had developed between the southern Indian and Pacific oceans over the South Tasman Rise. The first major climatic-glacial threshold was crossed 38 m.y. ago near the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, when substantial Antarctic sea ice began to form. This resulted in a rapid temperature drop in bottom waters of about 5°C and a major crisis in deep-sea faunas. Thermohaline oceanic circulation was initiated at this time much like that of the present day. The resulting change in climatic regime increased bottom water activity over wide areas of the deep ocean basins, creating much sediment erosion, especially in western parts of oceans. A major (∼2000 m) and apparently rapid deepening also occurred in the calcium carbonate compensation depth (CCD). This climatic threshold was crossed as a result of the gradual isolation of Antarctica from Australia and perhaps the opening of the Drake Passage. During the Oligocene (t = 38 to 22 m.y. ago), widespread glaciation probably occurred throughout Antarctica, although no ice cap existed. By the middle to late Oligocene (t = ∼30 to 25 m.y. ago), deep-seated circum-Antarctic flow had developed south of the South Tasman Rise, as this had separated sufficiently from Victoria Land, Antarctica. Major reorganization resulted in southern hemisphere deep-sea sediment distribution patterns. The next principal climatic threshold was crossed during the middle Miocene (t = 14 to 11 m.y. ago) when the Antarctic ice cap formed. This occurred at about the time of closure of the Australian-Indonesian deep-sea passage. During the early Miocene, calcareous biogenic sediments began to be displaced northward by siliceous biogenic sediments with higher rates of sedimentation reflecting the beginning of circulation related to the development of the Antarctic Convergence. Since the middle Miocene the East Antarctic ice cap has remained a semipermanent feature exhibiting some changes in volume. The most important of these occurred during the latest Miocene (t = ∼5 m.y. ago) when ice volumes increased beyond those of the present day. This event was related to global climatic cooling, a rapid northward movement of about 300 km of the Antarctic Convergence, and a eustatic sea level drop that may have been partly responsible for the isolation of the Mediterranean basin. Northern hemisphere ice sheet development began about 2.5–3 m.y. ago, representing the next major global climatic threshold, and was followed by the well-known major oscillations in northern ice sheets. In the Southern Ocean the Quaternary marks a peak in activity of oceanic circulation as reflected by widespread deep-sea erosion, very high biogenic productivity at the Antarctic Convergence and resulting high rates of biogenic sedimentation, and maximum northward distribution of ice-rafted debris.