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Contourite deposits in the central Scotia Sea: the importance of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Weddell Gyre flows
Maldonado, A.; Barnolas, A.; Bohoyo, F.; Galindo-Zaldi´var, J.; Hernández-Molina, F.J.; Lobo, F.J.; Rodríguez-Fernández, J.; Somoza, L.; Vázquez, J.T. (2003). Contourite deposits in the central Scotia Sea: the importance of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Weddell Gyre flows. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 198(1-2): 187-221.
In: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Elsevier: Amsterdam; Tokyo; Oxford; New York. ISSN 0031-0182; e-ISSN 1872-616X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Contourite deposits; Scotia Sea; Antarctic paleoceanography; Antarctic Circumpolar Current; Weddell Sea Deep Water

Authors  Top | Datasets 
  • Maldonado, A.
  • Barnolas, A.
  • Bohoyo, F.
  • Galindo-Zaldi´var, J.
  • Hernández-Molina, F.J.
  • Lobo, F.J.
  • Rodríguez-Fernández, J.
  • Somoza, L.
  • Vázquez, J.T.

    New swath bathymetry with multichannel and high resolution seismic profiles shows a variety of contourite drift, sediment wave morphologies, and seismic facies in the central Scotia Sea. The deposits are to be found at the confluence between the two most important bottom current flows in the southern ocean: the eastward flowing Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and the northward outflow of the Weddell Sea Deep Water (WSDW). The contourite drifts are wedge-like deposits up to 1 km thick, that exhibit aggradational reflectors along axis thinning towards the margins. The contourite drifts occur in areas of weaker flows along the margins of contourite channels and in areas protected by obstacles. The elongate-mounded drifts are best developed along the left-hand margins of channelized bottom current flows, due to the Coriolis force. A contourite fan has a main channel and two distributary channels that expand over a gentle seafloor. The proximal fan exhibits sediment waves with the distal fan incised by furrows. Sediment wave fields are well developed in areas of intensified bottom flows without channels, particularly at the confluence of the ACC and the WSDW. Small sediment waves occur where unidirectional bottom current flows predominate. Sediment waves may develop under the influence of internal waves produced by the interaction of the flows and sea-bottom relief. The stratigraphic sequence above the oceanic crust of Early to Middle Miocene age contains six seismic units separated by major reflectors. All the units were shaped under the influence of strong bottom current flows, although they exhibit distinct seismic facies changes that record the variations of the bottom current pathways over time. The age of the units was calculated based on the age of the oceanic crust and sedimentation rates of deep-sea deposits in the region. The oldest, Units VI–IV, are of Early to Middle Miocene age and developed under the influence of the ACC. They are characterized by a southward progradational pattern of the seismic units and sedimentation rates of 5–8 cm/ky. Unit III, with an estimated Middle Miocene age, evidences the first incursion of WSDW into the central Scotia Sea, when plate movement caused openings in the South Scotia Ridge and allowed the connection with the northern Weddell Sea through Jane Basin and gaps in the ridge. Unit II, estimated to be of Late Miocene to Early Pliocene age, extends over the area and is characterized by internal unconformities. A major unconformity at the base of Unit II records an important reorganization of bottom current flows that may predate the onset of grounded ice sheets on the Antarctic Peninsula shelf. Unit I, of Late Pliocene to Quaternary age, shows intensified bottom currents. The unconformity at the base of Unit I probably predates the onset of major Northern Hemisphere glaciations and the greater expansion of Antarctic ice sheets during the Late Pliocene. The extensive distribution of contourite deposits above the oceanic crust testifies to the long-term production of Antarctic Bottom Water. Cold, deep water was swept northward from the Weddell Gyre, interacting with the ACC, and possibly exerting profound influences on the global circulation system and the onset of major glaciations.

Datasets (2)
  • Global contourite distribution database, version 2, more
  • Global contourite distribution database, version 3, more

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