Cenozoic Variations in the Deep Western Boundary Current as Recorded in the Seismic Stratigraphy of Contourite Drifts, Newfoundland Ridge, Offshore Canada
Boyle, Patrick Ryan
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A contourite drift complex on the J-Anomaly Ridge (JAR) and Southeast Newfoundland Ridge (SENR), offshore eastern Canada, records an extensive archive of North Atlantic circulatory and sedimentary dynamics formed under the influence of the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC). Seismic-reflection profiles constrained by drill sites from IODP Expedition 342 are used to map the spatial and temporal distribution of contourite sedimentation and to evaluate the Cenozoic history of the DWBC within a preexisting climatic framework. This study indicates three phases of sedimentation termed here Pre-Contourite-Drift Phase (~115-50 Ma), Active-Contourite-Drift Phase (~50-2.6 Ma), and Post-Contourite-Drift Phase (~2.6-0 Ma). Bottom current controlled sedimentation began at the boundary between Pre-Contourite-Drift Phase and Active-Contourite-Drift Phase (~50 Ma), and correlates to a long-term global cooling trend that initiated at the end of the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Within the Active-Contourite-Drift Phase at ~30 Ma depocenters shifted deeper and current energy and focus is interpreted to have increased in association with global oceanographic change at the Eocene-Oligocene transition. The beginning of Post-Contourite-Drift Phase sedimentation (~2.6 Ma) marks a shift in bottom current path towards shallower water depths, and corresponds with the onset of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. These events of circulatory reorganization correlate with other North Atlantic seismic stratigraphic studies, suggesting that these events occurred throughout the North Atlantic. An improved understanding of long-term (>1000000 yr) dynamics of North Atlantic circulation in response to significant reorganization of Cenozoic climate provides important context towards refining models and prediction of oceanic response to contemporary climate change.
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