Terrigenous Grain-Size Record of the Newfoundland Ridge Contourite Drift, IODP Site U1411: The First Physical Proxy Record of North Atlantic Abyssal Current Intensity during the Eocene-Oligocene Transition

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Virginia Tech

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a vital process that transfers heat and nutrients throughout the world's oceans, helping to regulate global climate and support marine ecosystems. The timing and nature of the shift to modern AMOC, and especially to deep-water formation in the North Atlantic, has been a topic of ongoing study, with the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT, ~34 Ma) as a potential focal point of this shift. However, the role played by abrupt EOT cooling and Antarctic glaciation in North Atlantic circulation remains unclear. Improved constraints on Paleogene circulation will provide insight into the sensitivity of AMOC to perturbations in global climate, which is particularly relevant in light of contemporary climate change.

To examine deep North Atlantic circulation response to the EOT we obtained grain-size data from the terrigenous fraction of the mud-dominated sediments of the Southeast Newfoundland Ridge contourite drift complex at IODP Site U1411, which is interpreted to have formed under the influence of the Deep Western Boundary Current. We analyzed 195 samples that span 150 m of stratigraphy from 36-26 Ma. The main objective was to use the 'sortable silt' fraction (10-63 µm) to generate a record of relative change in bottom-current intensity. These data are complemented with a record of the abundance and size of lithogenic sand (>63 µm).

Here we present the first physical proxy record of abyssal current intensity in the North Atlantic, from late Eocene to mid Oligocene. Invigoration of North Atlantic deep circulation occurred gradually (over Myr timescales), with no significant changes linked temporally to the EOT. We infer that deep circulation in the North Atlantic was not sensitive to the abrupt global cooling and Antarctic glaciation associated with the EOT. Rather, our data suggest that changes in North Atlantic circulation were likely governed by longer-term processes related to the opening of key tectonic gateways, such as the Greenland-Scotland Ridge in the North Atlantic, and the Drake and Tasman Passages in the Southern Ocean. Additionally, we identify a significant mid-Oligocene invigoration of North Atlantic abyssal circulation, which climaxes around 27.9 Ma, and is coeval with a decrease in atmospheric CO2.

Paleoceanography, grain size analysis, sortable silt, Eocene-Oligocene Transition, North Atlantic deep circulation