EARTH SCIENCE | OCEANS | MARINE GEOPHYSICS
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Ocean currents are strongly controlled by seafloor topography. Recent studies have shown that small-scale features with slopes steeper than 0.05° significantly affect subsurface eddy velocities and the vertical structure of ocean circulation patterns. Such slope gradients represent the majority of the present-day oceanic basins. Modeling past oceanographic conditions for key climate stages requires similarly detailed paleo seafloor topography grids, in order to capture ocean currents accurately, especially for ocean models with sufficient resolution (<0.1°) to resolve eddies. However, existing paleobathymetry reconstructions use either a forward modeling approach, resulting in global grids lacking detailed seafloor roughness, or a backward modeling technique based on sediment backstripping, capturing realistic slope gradients, but for a spatially restricted area. Both approaches produce insufficient boundary conditions for high-resolution global paleo models. Here, we compute high-resolution global paleobathymetry grids, with detailed focus on the Southern Ocean, for key Cretaceous and early Cenozoic climate stages. We backstrip sediments from the modern global bathymetry, allowing the preservation of present-day seafloor slope gradients. Sediment isopach data are compiled from existing seismo-stratigraphic interpretations along the Southern Ocean margins, and expanded globally using total sediment thickness information and constant sedimentation rates. We also consider the effect of mantle flow on long-wavelength topography. The resulting grids contain realistic seafloor slope gradients and continental slopes across the continent-ocean transition zones that are similar to present-day observations. Using these detailed paleobathymetry grids for high-resolution global paleo models will help to accurately reconstruct oceanographic conditions of key climate stages and their interaction with the evolving seafloor.
Declining atmospheric CO2 concentrations are considered the primary driver for the Cenozoic Greenhouse-Icehouse transition, ~34 million years ago. A role for tectonically opening Southern Ocean gateways, initiating the onset of a thermally isolating Antarctic Circumpolar Current, has been disputed as ocean models have not reproduced expected heat transport to the Antarctic coast. Here we use high-resolution ocean simulations with detailed paleobathymetry to demonstrate that tectonics did play a fundamental role in reorganising Southern Ocean circulation patterns and heat transport, consistent with available proxy data. When at least one gateway (Tasmanian or Drake) is shallow (300 m), gyres transport warm waters towards Antarctica. When the second gateway subsides below 300 m, these gyres weaken and cause a dramatic cooling (average of 2–4°C, up to 5°C) of Antarctic surface waters whilst the ACC remains weak. Our results demonstrate that tectonic changes are crucial for Southern Ocean climate change and should be carefully considered in constraining long-term climate sensitivity to CO2.
IMAS/CSIRO undertook a multibeam mapping campaign in eastern and Southern Tasmania to map shelf waters of the Freycinet, Huon and Tasman Fracture Marine Parks and several reference areas for the Tasman Fracture Park, including waters around Pedra Brancha and South-west Cape. The dataset includes a post-processed transit along the mid-shelf i=of Western Tasmania. The dataset includes raw mutibeam outputs and post-processed data, including Caris Files, xyz data and geotiffs. A data report for this has been produced by CSIRO. The study was intended to increase knowledge of the distribution of habitats within the SE Australian Australian Marine Park network, and at nearby reference areas with similar habitat. This information is required to underpin subsequent biological monitoring of key habitats within the AMP network, and to contrast the observations within parks with nearby fished locations to determine the extent that changes in biological communities are driven by natural vs anthropogenic pressures.
Understanding the patterns and characteristics of sedimentary deposits on the conjugate Australian-Antarctic margins is critical to reveal the Cretaceous-Cenozoic tectonic, oceanographic and climatic conditions in the basin. However, unravelling its evolution has remained difficult due to the different seismic stratigraphic interpretations on each margin and sparse drill sites. Here, for the first time, we collate all available seismic reflection profiles on both margins and use newly available offshore drilling data, to develop a consistent seismic stratigraphic framework across the Australian-Antarctic basins. We find sedimentation patterns similar in structure and thickness, prior to the onset of Antarctic glaciation, enabling the basin-wide correlation of four major sedimentary units and their depositional history. We interpret that during the warm and humid Late Cretaceous (~83-65 Ma), large onshore river systems on both Australia and Antarctica resulted in deltaic sediment deposition offshore. We interpret that the onset of clockwise bottom currents during the Early Paleogene (~58-48 Ma) formed prominent sediment drift deposits along both continental rises. We suggest that these currents strengthened and progressed farther east through the Eocene. Coevally, global cooling (<48 Ma) and progressive aridification led to a large-scale decrease in sediment input from both continents. Two major Eocene hiatuses recovered by the IODP site U1356A at the Antarctic continental slope likely formed during this pre-glacial phase of low sedimentation and strong bottom currents. Our results can be used to constrain future paleo-oceanographic modelling of this region and aid understanding of the oceanographic changes accompanying the transition from a greenhouse to icehouse world.