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AGU journal highlights -- June 15, 2011
Date:6/15/2011

o 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), decreasing coastal precipitation and converting northwestern Australia's rainforests to semiarid grasslands. By measuring the isotope ratios and chemical composition of preserved shells left by ancient single-celled organisms, Karas et al. reconstruct the hydrologic signature of the geologic upheaval that triggered the sudden cooling.

During the Pliocene (approximately 4 million to 3 million years ago), tectonic activity led to the formation of a number of small islands in the Indonesian Archipelago. This protruding land restricted the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF), a current that carries warm, fresh, tropical Pacific water through the island chain and feeds the Leeuwin Current. On the basis of their shell-based reconstruction, the authors identify a strong divergence between the temperature of the Leeuwin Current and the nearby tropical Indian Ocean since about 3.3 million years ago. The finding of a relative cooling of the coastal Leeuwin Current was indicative of a weakened ITF rather than other regional changes. Colder waters flowing along the Australian shore would have reduced the amount of precipitation making its way inland, allowing tectonic activity in Indonesia to change the climate of the land down under.

Source: Paleoceanography, doi: 10.1029/2010PA001949, 2011
http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2010PA001949

Title: Pliocene Indonesian Throughflow and Leeuwin Current dynamics: Implications for Indian Ocean polar heat flux

Authors: Cyrus Karas: Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR), University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany; and Goethe-University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany;

Dirk Nrnberg: Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR), University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany;

Ralf Tiedemann: Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany;

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Contact: Maria-Jos Vias
mjvinas@agu.org
202-777-7530
American Geophysical Union
Source:Eurekalert

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