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Distribution of Quartz in Late Quaternary Atlantic Sediments in Relation to Climate*

  • Venkatarathnam Kolla (a1), Pierre E. Biscaye (a1) and Adele F. Hanley (a1)
Abstract

The distribution of quartz in the surface sediments of the Atlantic Ocean reflects derivation from continents by means of rivers, wind, ice, and coastal erosion. Enrichment of quartz thus supplied has occurred in some deep basins of especially the southern high latitudes from winnowing of finegrained clays by bottom currents. Although similar modes of quartz transport may have operated both during the Holocene and the last glacial maximum (18,000 yr B.P.), significant differences in the intensity of transport and in the locii of deposition, which are attributable to climatic variations during these times, exist in some areas of the Atlantic. In Holocene sediments of the eastern equatorial Atlantic, a band of high percent quartz exists directly off the present Saharan Desert and Sahel region and reflects the trade-wind transport of dusts from these arid and semiarid regions. During the last glacial maximum (18,000 yr B.P.), this high quartz band expanded southward by about 8° of latitude. This expansion was caused not only by the southward expansion of aridity and desert dunes but also by the southward migration of the northerly belt of trade winds during the last glaciation. Relatively high abundances and accumulation rates of quartz during the last glaciation suggest higher intensities of trade winds during that time compared to the Holocene. In the North Atlantic, the abundances of quartz in Holocene sediments are high adjacent to Greenland-Iceland and in the areas off Newfoundland-Labrador, and gradually decrease toward the central areas. The polar front and limit of sea-ice melting are at present confined to the northern part of the North Atlantic. The ice-rafting of quartz grains is, therefore, effective in the areas adjacent to Greenland and to some extent off Labrador causing high abundances in these areas. In contrast to this, during the last glaciation, the quartz abundances and accumulation rates are high in the central areas of North Atlantic around 45°N and decrease toward Greenland-Newfoundland. The migration of the polar front to as far south as 45°N and the consequent southward migration of sea-ice melting and ice-rafting during the last glaciation apparently caused this change in distribution. In addition to ice-rafting at present, wave or current reworking of relict glacial-marine detritus may have caused the high abundance of quartz in the surface sediments off Newfoundland-Labrador. In 18,000 yr B.P. sediments of the Norwegian Sea, the area of high percent quartz (>10%) is more extensive than that in Holocene sediments. This reflects the greater influence of ice-rafting or glacier activity in the sediment dispersal in the Norwegian Sea during the last glacial times.

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Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory Contribution No. 2768.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
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