Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

David J. Hollander, Ph.D.

Keywords

Pigmy Basin, Marine sediments, Paleoclimate, Ocean-continent interactions, Mississippi River

Abstract

Late Holocene climate variability includes the Little Ice Age (LIA, 450-150 BP) and the Medieval Warm Period (MWP, 1100-700 BP) that are characterized by contrasting hydrologic and thermal regimes. The degree of interaction between the North American continent and the ocean during these two abrupt climate events is not well known. Marine sedimentary records from basins proximal to major rivers integrate climate signals across large spatial scales and can provide a coherent, high-resolution assessment of the oceanic and continental responses to changing climate and hydrologic conditions. The Pigmy Basin in the northern Gulf of Mexico is ideally situated to record inputs from the Mississippi River and to relate these inputs to changing hydrologic conditions over North America during the LIA and MWP. Hydrologic variability recorded over the North America continent is directly dependent on the moisture balance (E/P) over the sub-tropical Gulf of Mexico (a major source of moisture to the North America continent). Warm, moist air masses from the south interact with cold/dry air masses from the north over the North American continent to produce storm fronts. Increased evaporation over the Gulf of Mexico leads to enhanced precipitation over the North American continent, due to the intensification of atmospheric circulation, which influences meridional moisture flux from the Gulf of Mexico to the North American continent. This study focuses on the sedimentary record spanning the last 1400 years and utilizes a multi-proxy approach incorporating organic and inorganic geochemical analyses to define intervals of varying continental inputs and to assess changes in the moisture balance (E-P) within the Gulf of Mexico.

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