Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Benjamin P. Flower, Ph.D.


Marine isotope stage 3, Laurentide ice sheet meltwater, Mississippi river, Floods, Ocean-continent interactions


Understanding the cause of abrupt climate change in the geologic past can help assess the potential magnitude and variability of future changes in regional and global climate. The research presented here focuses on some of the first records of hydrologic variability in the central North American continent during an interval of Marine Isotope Stage 3 (24-57 thousand years before present (ka)). Sediment core MD02-2551 from the Orca Basin, northern Gulf of Mexico, is used to document the first detailed melting history of the southern margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) during MIS 3, and to record terrestrial inputs from the Mississippi River related to changes in evaporation-precipitation over the mid-continent, from 28-45 ka.Paired measurements of oxygen isotopes and Mg/Ca-SST on the planktonic foraminifera Globigerinoides ruber (pink) are used to calculate the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater and test one of the key hypotheses for abrupt climate change. Five

rvals of freshwater input from 28-45 ka do not match the abrupt Dansgaard-Oeschger temperature oscillations recorded in Greenland ice. Rather, summer melting of the LIS may have occurred during Antarctic warming and likely contributed to sea-level variability during MIS 3. A detailed assessment over one of the meltwater events, using the oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of G. ruber and the deeper dwelling Neogloboquadrina dutertrei, demonstrate that meltwater was confined to the surface layers and likely had an impact on the biological pump in the Gulf of Mexico. A similar oxygen isotopic composition of seawater record determined from the year-round white G. ruber suggests that melting was not limited to the warmest summer months. The timing of LIS meltwater input is decoupled from an interval of enhanced wet conditions over the North American continent and increased Mississippi River discharge, as shown by a suite of organic and sedimentologic proxies. Increasing summer

insolation on the orbital scale may have led to a northward migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and an intensification and westward shift in the conical position of the Bermuda High, which shuttles moisture to the North American continent and contributes to flooding in the Mississippi River drainage basin.