Variations in past and present ocean circulation assessed with U-series nuclides
This thesis considers the use of two U-series nuclides – 231 Pa and 230 Th – as proxies for studying ocean circulation. A total of six water-column profiles of 231 Pa, 230 Th, and 232 Th have been measured from two regions of the southwestern Indian Ocean: the Madagascar and Mascarene Basins; and the southeastern continental margin of South Africa. Measurement by MC-ICP-MS of 10 litre water samples is possible for samples with as little as 4 and 2 fg of 231 Pa and 230 Th and yields typical uncertainties of 6% and 14% respectively. These profiles show that the scavenging and advection histories of water masses can affect their 231 Pa concentration, with distinct variations superimposed on a general increase in concentration with depth due to reversible scavenging. A 1D particle scavenging model is used to show that sedimentary (231 Paxs /230 Thxs )0 is most representative of the (231 Pa/230 Th) of the bottom most water mass at any one locality, although in turn this water mass (231 Pa/230 Th) will be dependent not only on its advection and scavenging history but also the 231 Pa and 230 Th concentrations of the overlying water masses during advection. Acknowledgment that sedimentary (231 Paxs /230 Thxs )0 is “set” by the bottommost water mass is important for interpretation of scenarios where changes in depth of circulation, as well as circulation strength, may have occurred. A record of sedimentary (231 Paxs /230 Thxs )0 has been recovered from a 6 m Kasten core from the Mascarene Basin covering the past 140 ka, in order to reconstruct flow of AABW into the basin. The (231 Paxs /230 Thxs )0 measured is below the production ration of 0.093 and shows no significant variation. This indicates that (231 Paxs /230 Thxs )0 is sensitive to changes in particle productivity and circulation at this location and that there has been little or no change in either environmental variable over the last full interglacial-glacial cycle. This finding is in contrast to other ocean basins, particularly the North Atlantic, where large changes in circulation are observed.