Iceberg Alley and Subantarctic Ice and Ocean Dynamics1
Published August 2019
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International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 382, Iceberg Alley and Subantarctic Ice and Ocean Dynamics, investigated the long-term climate history of Antarctica, seeking to understand how polar ice sheets responded to changes in insolation and atmospheric CO2 in the past and how ice sheet evolution influenced global sea level and vice versa. Five sites (U1534–U1538) were drilled east of the Drake Passage: two sites at 53.2°S at the northern edge of the Scotia Sea and three sites at 57.4°–59.4°S in the southern Scotia Sea. We recovered continuously deposited late Neogene sediment to reconstruct the past history and variability in Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) mass loss and associated changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation.
The sites from the southern Scotia Sea (Sites U1536–U1538) will be used to study the Neogene flux of icebergs through “Iceberg Alley,” the main pathway along which icebergs calved from the margin of the AIS travel as they move equatorward into the warmer waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). In particular, sediments from this area will allow us to assess the magnitude of iceberg flux during key times of AIS evolution, including the following:
- The middle Miocene glacial intensification of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet,
- The mid-Pliocene warm period,
- The late Pliocene glacial expansion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,
- The mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT), and
- The “warm interglacials” and glacial terminations of the last 800 ky.
We will use the geochemical provenance of iceberg-rafted detritus and other glacially eroded material to determine regional sources of AIS mass loss. We will also address interhemispheric phasing of ice sheet growth and decay, study the distribution and history of land-based versus marine-based ice sheets around the continent over time, and explore the links between AIS variability and global sea level.
By comparing north–south variations across the Scotia Sea between the Pirie Basin (Site U1538) and the Dove Basin (Sites U1536 and U1537), Expedition 382 will also deliver critical information on how climate changes in the Southern Ocean affect ocean circulation through the Drake Passage, meridional overturning in the region, water mass production, ocean–atmosphere CO2 transfer by wind-induced upwelling, sea ice variability, bottom water outflow from the Weddell Sea, Antarctic weathering inputs, and changes in oceanic and atmospheric fronts in the vicinity of the ACC.
Comparing changes in dust proxy records between the Scotia Sea and Antarctic ice cores will also provide a detailed reconstruction of changes in the Southern Hemisphere westerlies on millennial and orbital timescales for the last 800 ky. Extending the ocean dust record beyond the last 800 ky will help to evaluate dust-climate couplings since the Pliocene, the potential role of dust in iron fertilization and atmospheric CO2 drawdown during glacials, and whether dust input to Antarctica played a role in the MPT.
The principal scientific objective of Subantarctic Front Sites U1534 and U1535 at the northern limit of the Scotia Sea is to reconstruct and understand how ocean circulation and intermediate water formation responds to changes in climate with a special focus on the connectivity between the Atlantic and Pacific basins, the “cold water route.” The Subantarctic Front contourite drift, deposited between 400 and 2000 m water depth on the northern flank of an east–west trending trough off the Chilean continental shelf, is ideally situated to monitor millennial- to orbital-scale variability in the export of Antarctic Intermediate Water beneath the Subantarctic Front. During Expedition 382, we recovered continuously deposited sediments from this drift spanning the late Pleistocene (from ~0.78 Ma to recent) and from the late Pliocene (~3.1–2.6 Ma). These sites are expected to yield a wide array of paleoceanographic records that can be used to interpret past changes in the density structure of the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean, track migrations of the Subantarctic Front, and give insights into the role and evolution of the cold water route over significant climate episodes, including the following:
- The most recent warm interglacials of the late Pleistocene and
- The intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation.
1Weber, M.E., Raymo, M.E., Peck, V.L., Williams, T., and the Expedition 382 Scientists, 2019. Expedition 382 Preliminary Report: Iceberg Alley and Subantarctic Ice and Ocean Dynamics. International Ocean Discovery Program. https://doi.org/
This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.