Variability in the Benguela Current upwelling system over the past 70,000 years

TitleVariability in the Benguela Current upwelling system over the past 70,000 years
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsSummerhayes, CP, Kroon, D, Rosell-Mele, A, Jordan, RW, Schrader, HJ, Hearn, R, Villanueva, J, Grimali, JO, Eglinton, G
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Accession NumberWOS:000207298000001

This study was designed to see if the intensity and location of upwelling in the Benguela Current Upwelling System off Namibia changed significantly during the last 70,000 years. Most of the analytical work focused on geochemical, micropalaeontological and stable isotopic analyses of a 6.5m long combined pilot and piston core, PGPC12, from 1017m on the continental slope close to Walvis Bay. The slope sediments are rich in organic matter. Most of it is thought to represent deposition beneath a productive shelf edge upwelling system, but some is supplied by downslope near-bottom flow of material probably resuspended on the outer continental shelf. Temporal changes in upwelling intensity as represented by fluctuations in the accumulation of organic matter do not show the simple 'classical' pattern of less upwelling and lower productivity in interglacials and more upwelling and higher productivity in glacials, but instead show a pattern of higher frequency fluctuations. The broad changes in organic carbon accumulation reach maxima at times when the earth-sun distance was greatest, indicating that this accumulation responded to changes in the precession index; at these times monsoons would have been weakest and Trade Winds strongest. Maximum accumulation of organic matter on the slope occurred in the last interstadial (isotope stage 3), and coincided with coldest sea surface temperatures as recorded by alkenone data (U(37)(k)), and by nannofossil assemblages. It is attributed largely to increased productivity in situ, rather than the lateral supply of material eroded from older organic rich deposits exposed by the lowering of sealevel at that time. The enhanced productivity is attributed to a strengthening of upwelling-favourable winds in this area in response to the minimal solar insolation typical of this period. Diatoms generally are not abundant in these sediments, so appear to be unreliable indicators of productivity over the continental slope. When sealevel was lowest (isotope stages 2 and 4) organic matter previously deposited on the continental shelf was eroded and dumped on the continental slope; this reworked material constitutes up to 43% of the flux of organic matter to the slope at these times. This process did not affect the slope in stage 3, when sealevel fell by only 50m. The accumulation of terrigenous material was highest in stages 2 and 4. The available data suggest that the terrigenous influx at those times was primarily aeolian. We interpret this to mean that more of the winds then came from the east ('Berg' winds), bringing an influx of aeolian dust from the hinterland; these easterlies were less favoarable for upwelling than were the more southerly Trade Winds that dominated during stage 3. Carbonate accumulation was least in stages 2 and 4, largely in response to dissolution induced by CO(2)-rich bottom waters.