Temperate Oligocene surface ocean conditions offshore of Cape Adare, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Hoem, Frida S.; Valero, Luis; Evangelinos, Dimitris; Escutia, Carlota; Duncan, Bella; McKay, Robert M.; Brinkhuis, Henk; Sangiorgi, Francesca; Bijl, Peter K.

VL / 17 - BP / 1423 - EP / 1442
Antarctic continental ice masses fluctuated considerably during the Oligocene "coolhouse", at elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations of similar to 600-800 ppm. To assess the role of the ocean in the Oligocene ice sheet variability, reconstruction of past ocean conditions in the proximity of the Antarctic margin is needed. While relatively warm ocean conditions have been reconstructed for the Oligocene offshore of Wilkes Land, the geographical extent of that warmth is unknown. In this study, we reconstruct past surface ocean conditions from glaciomarine sediments recovered from Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Site 274 offshore of the Ross Sea continental margin. This site, located offshore of Cape Adare is ideally situated to characterise Oligocene regional surface ocean conditions, as it is situated between the colder, higher-latitude Ross Sea continental shelf and the warm-temperate Wilkes Land margin in the Oligocene. We first improve the age model of DSDP Site 274 using integrated bio- and magnetostratigraphy. Subsequently, we analyse organic walled dinoflagellate cyst assemblages and lipid biomarkers (TEX86, TetraEther indeX of 86 carbon atoms) to reconstruct surface palaeoceanographic conditions during the Oligocene (33.7-24.4 Ma). Both TEX86 based sea surface temperature (SST) and microplankton results show temperate (10-17 degrees C +/- 5.2 degrees C) surface ocean conditions at Site 274 throughout the Oligocene. Oceanographic conditions between the offshore Wilkes Land margin and Cape Adare became increasingly similar towards the late Oligocene (26.5-24.4 Ma); this is inferred to be the consequence of the widening of the Tasmanian Gateway, which resulted in more interconnected ocean basins and frontal systems. Maintaining marine terminations of terrestrial ice sheets in a proto-Ross Sea with offshore SSTs that are as warm as those suggested by our data requires a strong ice flux fed by intensive precipitation in the Antarctic hinterland during colder orbital states but with extensive surface melt of terrestrial ice during warmer orbital states.

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