Salinity changes in the Agulhas leakage area recorded by stable hydrogen isotopes of C37 alkenones during Termination i and II

S. Kasper*, M. T J Van Der Meer, A. Mets, R. Zahn, J. S. Sinninghe Damsté, S. Schouten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


At the southern tip of Africa, the Agulhas Current reflects back into the Indian Ocean causing so-called "Agulhas rings" to spin off and release relatively warm and saline water into the South Atlantic Ocean. Previous reconstructions of the dynamics of the Agulhas Current, based on paleo-sea surface temperature and sea surface salinity proxies, inferred that Agulhas leakage from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic was reduced during glacial stages as a consequence of shifted wind fields and a northwards migration of the subtropical front. Subsequently, this might have led to a buildup of warm saline water in the southern Indian Ocean. To investigate this latter hypothesis, we reconstructed sea surface salinity changes using alkenone δD, and paleo-sea surface temperature using TEXH86 and UK'37, from two sediment cores (MD02-2594, MD96-2080) located in the Agulhas leakage area during Termination I and II. Both U K'37 and TEXH86 temperature reconstructions indicate an abrupt warming during the glacial terminations, while a shift to more negative δDalkenone values of approximately 14‰ during glacial Termination I and II is also observed. Approximately half of the isotopic shift can be attributed to the change in global ice volume, while the residual isotopic shift is attributed to changes in salinity, suggesting relatively high salinities at the core sites during glacials, with subsequent freshening during glacial terminations. Approximate estimations suggest that δDalkenone represents a salinity change of ca. 1.7-1.9 during Termination I and Termination II. These estimations are in good agreement with the proposed changes in salinity derived from previously reported combined planktonic Foraminifera δ18O values and Mg/Ca-based temperature reconstructions. Our results confirm that the δD of alkenones is a potentially suitable tool to reconstruct salinity changes independent of planktonic Foraminifera δ18O.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2014


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