Linking catchment hydrology and ocean circulation in Late Holocene southernmost Africa
Other literature type
Cawthraw, Hayley C.
(issn: 1814-9332, eissn: 1814-9332)
Recent studies of the South African climatic system revealed a highly complex interplay of forcing factors on precipitation regimes. This includes the influence of the tropical easterlies, the strength of the Southern Hemispheric Westerlies as well as sea surface temperatures along the coast of the subcontinent. This study of a sediment core at the terrestrial-marine interface spanning a time interval of ~ 4 ka provides insights on the highly dynamic climatic system in southernmost South Africa. Several organic proxies sensitive to changes in climatic parameters like the distribution and isotopic composition of plant-wax lipids as well as indicators for sea surface temperatures and soil input give information on climatic changes during the investigated time period. Moreover, the micropaleontology, mineralogical and elemental composition of the sediments reflects the variability of the terrigenous input to the core site. The combination of downcore sediment signatures and a catchment-wide provenance study indicate that the Little Ice Age was characterized by relatively warm sea surface temperatures in Mossel Bay and arid climatic conditions favorable to torrential flood events sourced in the Gouritz headlands. In contrast, the so-called Medieval Climate Anomaly is expressed by humid conditions in the Gouritz River catchment with lower, but highly variable sea surface temperatures in the Mossel Bay area. The coincidence between humid climatic conditions and cooler sea surface temperatures has been attributed to a strengthened and more southerly anticyclonic circulation. In this climatic setting strong tropical easterlies supply Indian Ocean moisture to South Africa and at the same time Agulhas Bank upwelling pulses become more common due to an increase in Agulhas Current transport as well as alongshore southeasterly winds. These processes resemble the modern day oceanography in summer and can be conceptualized in a regional climate model.