Cenozoic Circulation History of the North Atlantic Ocean From Seismic Stratigraphy of the Newfoundland Ridge Drift Complex

Friday, 19 December 2014
Patrick R Boyle1, Brian Romans1, Richard D Norris2, Brian E Tucholke3, Stephen A Swift3 and Philip F. Sexton4, (1)Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Geosciences, Blacksburg, VA, United States, (2)University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (4)The Open University, Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space & Astronomical Research, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
In the North Atlantic Ocean, contour-following bottom currents have eroded regional unconformities and deposited contourite drifts that exceed two km in thickness and extend for 100s of km. The character of deep-water masses that are conveyed through ocean basins by such currents influence global heat transfer and ocean-atmosphere partitioning of CO2. The Newfoundland Ridge Drift Complex lies directly under the modern Deep Western Boundary Current southeast of Newfoundland, close to the site of overturning in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and at the intersection of the warm Gulf Stream and cool Labrador surface currents. To the south are regions of the western North Atlantic basin that are influenced by southern- as well as northern-sourced bottom waters. Here, we document the evolution of North Atlantic deep-water circulation by seismic-stratigraphic analysis of the long-lived and areally extensive Newfoundland Ridge Drift Complex. IODP Expedition 342 boreholes provide age control on seismic units, allowing sedimentation patterns to be placed in a temporal framework.

We find three major phases of sedimentation: pre-contourite drift (~115-50 Ma), active contourite drift (~50-2.6 Ma), and late-contourite drift (~2.6-0 Ma). Bottom-current-controlled deposition of terrigenous-rich sediment began at ~50 Ma, which correlates to the onset of a long-term global cooling trend. A further change in deep circulation near the Eocene-Oligocene transition (~30 Ma) is indicated by more focused drift sedimentation with greatly increased accumulation rates and stratal architecture dominated by mud waves. At ~2.6 Ma to present the axis of drift accumulation shifted markedly towards shallower water depths, corresponding with the onset of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. We discuss how these reorganizations of deep circulation correlate with results of other North Atlantic seismic stratigraphic studies to the north and south.