Radiogenic isotopes in the Mediterranean Sea: water mass exchange and precessional variability during the Messinian

Modestou, Sevasti Eleni (2016) Radiogenic isotopes in the Mediterranean Sea: water mass exchange and precessional variability during the Messinian. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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During the late Miocene, exchange between the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean changed dramatically, culminating in the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). Understanding Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange at that time could answer the enigmatic question of how so much salt built up within the Mediterranean, while furthering the development of a framework for future studies attempting to understand how changes may have impacted global thermohaline circulation.

Due to their association with specific water masses at different scales, radiogenic Sr, Pb, and Nd isotope records were generated from various archives contained within marine deposits to endeavour to understand better late Miocene Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange. The archives used include foraminiferal calcite (Sr), fish teeth and bone (Nd), dispersed authigenic ferromanganese oxyhydroxides (Nd, Pb), and a ferromanganese crust (Pb). The primary focus is on sediments preserved at one end of the Betic corridor, a gateway that once connected the Mediterranean to the Atlantic through southern Spain, although other locations are investigated. The Betic gateway terminated within several marginal sub-basins before entering the Western Mediterranean; one of these is the Sorbas Basin, a well-studied location whose sediments have been astronomically tuned at high temporal resolution, providing the necessary age control for sub-precessional resolution records. Since the climatic history of the Mediterranean is strongly controlled by precessional changes in regional climate, the aim was to produce records at high (sub-precessional) temporal resolution, to be able to observe clearly any precessional cyclicity driven by regional climate which could be superimposed over longer trends. This goal was achieved for all records except the ferromanganese crust record.

The 87Sr/86Sr isotope record (Ch. 3) shows precessional frequency excursions away from the global seawater curve. As precessional frequency oscillations are unexpected for this setting, a numerical box model was used to determine the mechanisms causing the excursions. To enable parameterisation of model variables, regional Sr characteristics, data from general circulation model HadCM3L, and new benthic foraminiferal assemblage data are employed. The model results imply that the Sorbas Basin likely had a positive hydrologic budget in the late Miocene, very different to that of today. Moreover, the model indicates that the mechanism controlling the Sr isotope ratio of Sorbas Basin seawater was not restriction, but a lack of density-driven exchange with the Mediterranean. Beyond improving our understanding of how marginal Mediterranean sub-basins may evolve different isotope signatures, these results have implications for astronomical tuning and stratigraphy in the region, findings which are crucial considering the geological and climatic history of the late Miocene Mediterranean is based entirely on marginal deposits.

An improved estimate for the Nd isotope signature of late Miocene Mediterranean Outflow (MO) was determined by comparing Nd isotope signatures preserved in the deeper Alborán Sea at ODP Site 978 with literature data as well as the signature preserved in the Sorbas Basin (Ch. 4; -9.34 to -9.92 ± 0.37 εNd(t)). It was also inferred that it is unlikely that Nd isotopes can be used reliably to track changes in circulation within the shallow settings characteristic of the Mediterranean-Atlantic connections; this is significant in light of a recent publication documenting corridor closure using Nd isotopes. Both conclusions will prove useful for future studies attempting to understand changes in Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange.

Excursions to high values, with precessional frequency, are also observed in the radiogenic Pb isotope record for the Sorbas Basin (Ch. 5). Widening the scope to include locations further away from the gateways, records were produced for late Miocene sections on Sicily and Northern Italy, and similar precessional frequency cyclicity was observed in the Pb isotope records for these sites as well. Comparing these records to proxies for Saharan dust and available whole rock data indicates that, while further analysis is necessary to draw strong conclusions, enhanced dust production during insolation minima may be driving the observed signal. These records also have implications for astronomical tuning; peaks in Pb isotope records driven by Saharan dust may be easier to connect directly to the insolation cycle, providing improved astronomical tuning points.

Finally, a Pb isotope record derived using in-situ laser ablation performed on ferromanganese crust 3514-6 from the Lion Seamount, located west of Gibraltar within the MO plume, has provided evidence that plume depth shifted during the Pliocene. The record also suggests that Pb isotopes may not be a suitable proxy for changes in late Miocene Mediterranean-Atlantic exchange, since the Pb isotope signatures of regional water masses are too similar. To develop this record, the first published instance of laser ablation derived 230Thexcess measurements are combined with 10Be dating.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013/ under REA grant agreement 290201 MEDGATE
Keywords: Radiogenic isotopes, neodymium, strontium, lead, Messinian, Mediterranean, water mass exchange, stratigraphy, palaeoclimate, palaeoceanography.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QD Chemistry
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Supervisor's Name: Ellam, Prof. Rob M., Gutjahr, Dr. Marcus and Flecker, Dr. Rachel
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Sevasti Eleni Modestou
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7754
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2016 15:50
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2017 12:54

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