South African Climates (Agulhas LGM Density Profile)1
Published August 2015
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The Agulhas Current is the strongest western boundary current in the Southern Hemisphere, transporting some 70 Sv of warm and saline surface waters from the tropical Indian Ocean along the East African margin to the tip of Africa. Exchanges of heat and moisture with the atmosphere influence southern African climates, including individual weather systems such as extratropical cyclone formation in the region and rainfall patterns. Recent ocean models and paleoceanographic data further point at a potential role of the Agulhas Current in controlling the strength and mode of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) during the Late Pleistocene. Spillage of saline Agulhas water into the South Atlantic stimulates buoyancy anomalies that act as a control mechanism on the basin-wide AMOC, with implications for convective activity in the North Atlantic and Northern Hemisphere climate.
International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 361 aims to extend this work to periods of major ocean and climate restructuring during the Pliocene/Pleistocene to assess the role that the Agulhas Current and ensuing (interocean) marine heat and salt transports have played in shaping the regional- and global-scale ocean and climate development. This expedition will core six sites on the southeast African margin and Indian–Atlantic ocean gateway. The primary sites are located between 416 and 3040 m water depths.
- To assess the sensitivity of the Agulhas Current to changing climates of the Pliocene/Pleistocene, in association with transient to long-term changes of high-latitude climates, tropical heat budgets, and the monsoon system;
- To reconstruct the dynamics of the Indian–Atlantic gateway circulation during such climate changes, in association with changing wind fields and migrating ocean fronts;
- To examine the connection between Agulhas leakage and ensuing buoyancy transfer and shifts of the AMOC during major ocean and climate reorganizations during at least the last 5 My; and
- To address the impact of Agulhas variability on southern Africa terrestrial climates and, notably, rainfall patterns and river runoff.
Additionally, Expedition 361 will complete an intensive interstitial fluids program at four of the sites aimed at constraining the temperature, salinity, and density structure of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) deep ocean, from the bottom of the ocean to the base of the main thermocline, to address the processes that could fill the LGM ocean and control its circulation.
Expedition 361 will seek to recover ~5200 m of sediment in total. The coring strategy will include the triple advanced piston corer system along with the extended core barrel coring system where required to reach target depths. Given the significant transit time required during the expedition (15.5 days), the coring schedule is tight and will require detailed operational planning and flexibility from the scientific party. The final operations plan, including the number of sites to be cored and/or logged, is contingent upon the R/V JOIDES Resolution operations schedule, operational risks, and the outcome of requests for territorial permission to occupy particular sites.
All relevant IODP sampling and data policies will be adhered to during the expedition. Beyond the interstitial fluids program, shipboard sampling will be restricted to acquiring ephemeral data and to limited low-resolution sampling of parameters that may be critically affected by short-term core storage. Most sampling will be deferred to a postcruise sampling party that will take place at the Gulf Coast Repository in College Station, Texas (USA). A substantial onshore X-ray fluorescence scanning plan is anticipated and will be further developed in consultation with scientific participants.
1Hall, I.R., Hemming, S.R., and LeVay, L.J., 2015. Expedition 361 Scientific Prospectus: South African climates (Agulhas LGM density profile). International Ocean Discovery Program. http://dx.doi.org/10.14379/iodp.sp.361.2015
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