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Late Quaternary Temperature Variability in the Benguela Current System Derived from Alkenones

  • Georg J. Kirst (a1), Ralph R. Schneider (a1), Peter J. Müller (a1), Isabel von Storch (a1) and Gerold Wefer (a1)...


Three sediment cores on a transect across the continental slope off Namibia at about 23°S were investigated for alkenone-derived past sea-surface temperature (SST) and total organic carbon (TOC) content. These records are used to reconstruct variations of surface circulation, coastal upwelling, and paleoproductivity in the northern Benguela Current System for the last 150,000 yr. The SST record most distant from the coast resembles a SST pattern typical of the pelagic ocean, with the lowest SST at full-glacial periods and the highest SST during the Eemian and the Holocene. In contrast to the modern conditions where annual mean SST decreases toward the coast, the shelf-edge SST record has the most prominent warm anomalies of about 2°C during isotope stages 2 and 6 compared with the open ocean. The glacial SST minimum in the record close to the shelf is observed between 50,000 and 35,000 yr B.P., while the record midway along the transect shows intermediate temperature conditions between the offshore and nearshore records. The causal process for the warm anomalies under full ice-age conditions close to the coast may be similar to that of recent “Benguela Niño events” that originate from perturbations in the tradewind system over the western tropical Atlantic. During these events the Angola–Benguela Front, located at about 16°S, weakens and intensive southward protrusions of tropical water masses extend into the nearshore upwelling area as far as 25°S. Thus, the two nearshore records primarily responded to variations in the time-integrated balance between upwelling intensity and southward protrusions of anomalously warm and nutrient-poor Angolan surface waters, as indicated by the good anticorrelation of SST and TOC content. Accordingly, surface water cooling off Namibia over the last 150,000 yr was most intense during stage 3 due to strong winds that worked in favor of upwelling and a decrease of Angolan warm water influence.



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