Multiple tropical Andean glaciations during a period of late Pliocene warmth.
ABSTRACT: The extent and behaviour of glaciers during the mid-Piacenzian warm period illustrate the sensitivity of the cryosphere to atmospheric CO2 concentrations above pre-industrial levels. Knowledge of glaciation during this period is restricted to globally or regionally averaged records from marine sediments and to sparse terrestrial glacial deposits in mid-to-high latitudes. Here we expand the Pliocene glacial record to the tropics by reporting recurrent large-scale glaciation in the Bolivian Andes based on stratigraphic and paleomagnetic analysis of a 95-m sequence of glacial sediments underlying the 2.74-Ma Chijini Tuff. Paleosols and polarity reversals separate eight glacial diamictons, which we link to cold periods in the benthic oxygen isotope record. The glaciations appear to coincide with the earliest glacial activity at high northern latitudes and with events in Antarctica, including the strong M2 cold peak and terminal Pliocene climate deterioration. This concordance suggests inter-hemispheric climate linkages during the late Pliocene and requires that the Central Andes were at least as high in the late Pliocene as today. Our record fills a critical gap in knowledge of Earth systems during the globally warm mid-Piacenzian and suggests a possible driver of faunal migration preceding the large-scale biotic interchange in the Americas during the earliest Pleistocene.
Project description:Although Earth's climate history is best known through marine records, the corresponding continental climatic conditions drive the evolution of terrestrial life. Continental conditions during the latest Miocene are of particular interest because global faunal turnover is roughly synchronous with a period of global glaciation from ?6.2-5.5 Ma and with the Messinian Salinity Crisis from ?6.0-5.3 Ma. Despite the climatic and ecological significance of this period, the continental climatic conditions associated with it remain unclear. We address this question using erosion rates of ancient watersheds to constrain Mio-Pliocene climatic conditions in the south-central Andes near 30° S. Our results show two slowdowns in erosion rate, one from ?6.1-5.2 Ma and another from 3.6 to 3.3 Ma, which we attribute to periods of continental aridity. This view is supported by synchrony with other regional proxies for aridity and with the timing of glacial ?cold" periods as recorded by marine proxies, such as the M2 isotope excursion. We thus conclude that aridity in the south-central Andes is associated with cold periods at high southern latitudes, perhaps due to a northward migration of the Southern Hemisphere westerlies, which disrupted the South American Low Level Jet that delivers moisture to southeastern South America. Colder glacial periods, and possibly associated reductions in atmospheric CO2, thus seem to be an important driver of Mio-Pliocene ecological transitions in the central Andes. Finally, this study demonstrates that paleo-erosion rates can be a powerful proxy for ancient continental climates that lie beyond the reach of most lacustrine and glacial archives.
Project description:The Piacenzian stage of the Pliocene (2.6 to 3.6?Ma) is the most recent past interval of sustained global warmth with mean global temperatures markedly higher (by ~2-3?°C) than today. Quantifying CO2 levels during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (mPWP) provides a means, therefore, to deepen our understanding of Earth System behaviour in a warm climate state. Here we present a new high-resolution record of atmospheric CO2 using the ?11B-pH proxy from 3.35 to 3.15 million years ago (Ma) at a temporal resolution of 1 sample per 3-6 thousand years (kyrs). Our study interval covers both the coolest marine isotope stage of the mPWP, M2 (~3.3?Ma) and the transition into its warmest phase including interglacial KM5c (centered on ~3.205?Ma) which has a similar orbital configuration to present. We find that CO2 ranged from [Formula: see text]ppm to [Formula: see text]ppm, with CO2 during the KM5c interglacial being [Formula: see text]ppm (at 95% confidence). Our findings corroborate the idea that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels played a distinct role in climate variability during the mPWP. They also facilitate ongoing data-model comparisons and suggest that, at present rates of human emissions, there will be more CO2 in Earth's atmosphere by 2025 than at any time in at least the last 3.3 million years.
Project description:Knowledge of peatland development over the tropical/subtropical zone during the last glaciation is critical for understanding the glacial global methane cycle. Here we present a well-dated 'peat deposit-lake sediment' alternate sequence at Tengchong, southwestern China, and discuss the peatland development and its linkage to the global glacial methane cycle. Peat layers were formed during the cold Marine Isotope Stage (MIS)-2 and -4, whereas lake sediments coincided with the relatively warm MIS-3, which is possibly related to the orbital/suborbital variations in both temperature and Asian summer monsoon intensity. The Tengchong peatland formation pattern is broadly synchronous with those over subtropical southern China and other tropical/subtropical areas, but it is clearly in contrast to those over the mid-high Northern Hemisphere. The results of this work suggest that the shifts of peatland development between the tropical/subtropical zone and mid-high Northern Hemisphere may have played important roles in the glacial/interglacial global atmospheric CH4 cycles.
Project description:This article presents data derived by the USGS Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping (PRISM) Project. PRISM has generated planktic foraminifer census data from core sites and outcrops around the globe since 1988. These data form the basis of a number of paleoceanographic reconstructions focused on the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period (3.264 to 3.025 million years ago). Data are presented as counts of individuals within 64 taxonomic categories for each locality. We describe sample acquisition and processing, age dating, taxonomy and archival storage of material. These data provide a unique, stratigraphically focused opportunity to assess the effects of global warming on marine plankton.
Project description:The Arctic cryosphere is changing and making a significant contribution to sea level rise. The Late Pliocene had similar CO2 levels to the present and a warming comparable to model predictions for the end of this century. However, the state of the Arctic cryosphere during the Pliocene remains poorly constrained. For the first time we combine outputs from a climate model with a thermodynamic iceberg model to simulate likely source regions for ice-rafted debris (IRD) found in the Nordic Seas from Marine Isotope Stage M2 to the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period and what this implies about the nature of the Arctic cryosphere at this time. We compare the fraction of melt given by the model scenarios with IRD data from four Ocean Drilling Program sites in the Nordic Seas. Sites 911A, 909C, and 907A show a persistent occurrence of IRD that model results suggest is consistent with permanent ice on Svalbard. Our results indicate that icebergs sourced from the east coast of Greenland do not reach the Nordic Seas sites during the warm Late Pliocene but instead travel south into the North Atlantic. In conclusion, we suggest a continuous occurrence of marine-terminating glaciers on Svalbard and on East Greenland (due to the elevation of the East Greenland Mountains during the Late Pliocene). The study has highlighted the usefulness of coupled climate model-iceberg trajectory modeling for understanding ice sheet behavior when proximal geological records for Pliocene ice presence or absence are absent or are inconclusive.
Project description:Much uncertainty exists about the history of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS), particularly as to the frequency of extreme shelf edge glaciations. Because the last glaciation removed most of the record of earlier GIS extent on land and shelf exploration of the older GIS glacial record requires the use of deeper marine archives. Here we present seismic evidence for the frequency of extreme shelf edge glaciations offshore southwest Greenland. Our findings reveal that since the GIS formation only 5 glaciations were characterized by an ice sheet covering the entire shelf of southern Greenland. We estimate an age of around 4.5 million years (my) for the oldest episode and found that such extreme GIS expansions may have occur here only 3 times within the past c. 1.5 my. We thus conclude that the first large shelf edge glaciation of southern Greenland did occur prior to the Pliocene warmth epoch.
Project description:The modern Antarctic Dry Valleys are locked in a hyper-arid, polar climate that enables the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) to remain stable, frozen to underlying bedrock. The duration of these dry, cold conditions is a critical prerequisite when modeling the long-term mass balance of the EAIS during past warm climates and is best examined using terrestrial paleoclimatic proxies. Unfortunately, deposits containing such proxies are extremely rare and often difficult to date. Here, we apply a unique dating approach to tundra deposits using concentrations of meteoric beryllium-10 ((10)Be) adhered to paleolake sediments from the Friis Hills, central Dry Valleys. We show that lake sediments were emplaced between 14-17.5 My and have remained untouched by meteoric waters since that time. Our results support the notion that the onset of Dry Valleys aridification occurred ~14 My, precluding the possibility of EAIS collapse during Pliocene warming events. Lake fossils indicate that >14 My ago the Dry Valleys hosted a moist tundra that flourished in elevated atmospheric CO2 (>400 ppm). Thus, Dry Valleys tundra deposits record regional climatic transitions that affect EAIS mass balance, and, in a global paleoclimatic context, these deposits demonstrate how warming induced by 400 ppm CO2 manifests at high latitudes.
Project description:The mid-Piacenzian climate represents the most geologically recent interval of long-term average warmth relative to the last million years, and shares similarities with the climate projected for the end of the 21(st) century. As such, it represents a natural experiment from which we can gain insight into potential climate change impacts, enabling more informed policy decisions for mitigation and adaptation. Here, we present the first systematic comparison of Pliocene sea surface temperature (SST) between an ensemble of eight climate model simulations produced as part of PlioMIP (Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project) with the PRISM (Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping) Project mean annual SST field. Our results highlight key regional and dynamic situations where there is discord between the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and the climate model simulations. These differences have led to improved strategies for both experimental design and temporal refinement of the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.
Project description:Broad-scale climate control of vegetation is widely assumed. Vegetation-climate lags are generally thought to have lasted no more than a few centuries. Here our palaeoecological study challenges this concept over glacial-interglacial timescales. Through multivariate analyses of pollen assemblages from Lake El'gygytgyn, Russian Far East and other data we show that interglacial vegetation during the Plio-Pleistocene transition mainly reflects conditions of the preceding glacial instead of contemporary interglacial climate. Vegetation-climate disequilibrium may persist for several millennia, related to the combined effects of permafrost persistence, distant glacial refugia and fire. In contrast, no effects from the preceding interglacial on glacial vegetation are detected. We propose that disequilibrium was stronger during the Plio-Pleistocene transition than during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period when, in addition to climate, herbivory was important. By analogy to the past, we suggest today's widespread larch ecosystem on permafrost is not in climate equilibrium. Vegetation-based reconstructions of interglacial climates used to assess atmospheric CO2-temperature relationships may thus yield misleading simulations of past global climate sensitivity.
Project description:After nearly a billion years with no evidence for glaciation, ice advanced to equatorial latitudes at least twice between 717 and 635 Mya. Although the initiation mechanism of these Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth events has remained a mystery, the broad synchronicity of rifting of the supercontinent Rodinia, the emplacement of large igneous provinces at low latitude, and the onset of the Sturtian glaciation has suggested a tectonic forcing. We present unique Re-Os geochronology and high-resolution Os and Sr isotope profiles bracketing Sturtian-age glacial deposits of the Rapitan Group in northwest Canada. Coupled with existing U-Pb dates, the postglacial Re-Os date of 662.4 ± 3.9 Mya represents direct geochronological constraints for both the onset and demise of a Cryogenian glaciation from the same continental margin and suggests a 55-My duration of the Sturtian glacial epoch. The Os and Sr isotope data allow us to assess the relative weathering input of old radiogenic crust and more juvenile, mantle-derived substrate. The preglacial isotopic signals are consistent with an enhanced contribution of juvenile material to the oceans and glacial initiation through enhanced global weatherability. In contrast, postglacial strata feature radiogenic Os and Sr isotope compositions indicative of extensive glacial scouring of the continents and intense silicate weathering in a post-Snowball Earth hothouse.