Climate-Ice Sheet Interactions through the Pliocene-Pleistocene: Preliminary Results from IODP Expedition 341 (Gulf of Alaska)
Abstract:Since the Pliocene, global climate history is distinguished by the transition into a colder world, dominated by the onset and intensification of major Northern Hemisphere glaciations which have also changed in their duration and intensity. Potential drivers for these events include falling atmospheric CO2, progressive sub-glacial erosion, tectonic uplift, and associated feedbacks. At present, isolating climate as the driver of evolving continental ice volume since the Pliocene is hindered by the limited long term data sets which directly link climate changes to evidence for ice-sheet advance/retreat, erosion, and tectonic evolution over million year timescales.
IODP Expedition 341 drilled a cross-margin transect in the Gulf of Alaska from ice-proximal sites on the continental shelf to distal sites in the deep Pacific. This study focuses on the distal site (Site U1417, c.4190 m water depth) which contains variable biogenic and terrigenous contributions, and evidence for deposition through pelagic, mass movement and glacial processes. Our aim is to investigate links between north-east Pacific paleoceanography and the history of the north-west Cordilleran ice sheet, neither of which are fully understood given limited data pre-dating the Last Glacial Maximum.
We reconstruct SSTs during the mid-Pliocene, Plio-Pleistocene Transition (PPT) and mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT) using the UK37’ index. We consider the interaction between SSTs and primary production by examining the absolute and relative abundances of plankton biomarkers (e.g. for haptophytes, diatoms and dinoflagellates), carbon/nitrogen ratios, stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) and diatom assemblages. Links between these climatic events and the north-west Cordilleran ice-sheet advance/retreat history are initially made using shipboard stratigraphy; emerging data sets on ice-rafting from members of the Expedition 341 Scientific Party will refine these relationships.