Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
of the Past
High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13 – odd
monsoon event or intensified overturning circulation at the end of
the Mid-Pleistocene transition?
M. Ziegler1 , L. J. Lourens1 , E. Tuenter2 , and G.-J. Reichart1,3
1 Department
of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3 Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
2 Institute
Received: 14 July 2009 – Published in Clim. Past Discuss.: 27 July 2009
Revised: 30 November 2009 – Accepted: 3 December 2009 – Published: 29 January 2010
Abstract. Marine isotope stage (MIS) 13 (∼500 000 years
ago) has been recognized as atypical in many paleoclimate
records and, in particular, it has been connected to an exceptionally strong summer monsoon throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Here, we present a multi-proxy study of
a sediment core taken from the Murray Ridge at an intermediate water depth in the northern Arabian Sea that covers
the last 750 000 years. Our results indicate that primary productivity conditions were anomalously high during MIS 13
in the Arabian Sea and led to extreme carbonate dissolution
and glauconitization in the deep-sea sediments. These observations could be explained by increased wind driven upwelling of nutrient-rich deep waters and, hence, by the occurrence of an exceptionally strong summer monsoon event
during MIS 13, as it was suggested in earlier studies. However, ice core records from Antarctica demonstrate that atmospheric methane concentrations, which are linked to the extent of tropical wetlands, were relatively low during this period. This constitutes a strong argument against an extremely
enhanced global monsoon circulation during MIS 13 which,
moreover, is in contrast with results of transient climate modelling experiments. As an alternative solution for the aberrant conditions in the Arabian Sea record, we propose that
the high primary productivity was probably related to the onset of an intensive meridional overturning circulation in the
Atlantic Ocean at the end of the Mid-Pleistocene transition.
This may have led to an increased supply of nutrient-rich
deep waters into the Indian Ocean euphotic zone, thereby
triggering the observed productivity maximum.
Correspondence to: M. Ziegler
([email protected])
The Mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT) characterises a fundamental change in the climate state which allowed ice sheets
to expand and evolve from a dominant 41-kyr (obliquity) to
a quasi ∼100-kyr rhythm (Clark et al., 2006; Lisiecki and
Raymo, 2005; Raymo and Nisancioglu, 2003; Raymo et al.,
2006; Shackleton and Opdyke, 1976). The end of the MPT
between ca. 600 and 500 ka is described by a series of events
(Schmieder et al., 2000). First, the transition between MIS 14
and 13 (i.e. termination TVI ) is the least pronounced termination of the past 640 ka. Ice volume has increased insignificantly during MIS 14, compared to the other late Pleistocene
glacial periods. A record from Lake Baikal indicates, for
instance, that mountain glaciations were reduced in central
Eurasia from 580 to 380 kyrs ago (Prokopenko et al., 2002).
In particular, the record documents a continuous forestation,
suggesting that mild winter conditions prevailed with relatively little snow cover.
MIS 13 is, on the other hand, exceptional. It marks an extreme δ 13 Cmax associated with a major reorganization in the
carbon reservoir of the global ocean (Wang et al., 2003). Several peculiarities occured in the ocean during this time, such
as thick laminated layers of the giant diatom Ethmodiscus rex
in the Atlantic Ocean (Romero and Schmieder, 2006). Also,
the climate changed dramatically during this period with high
terrigenous influx at Ceara Rise (Harris et al., 1997), indicating heavy precipitation in the Amazon Basin, or the exceptional thick soil horizon S5 found at the Chinese loess
plateau (CLP) (Guo et al., 2009; Sun et al., 2006b). Moreover, extreme African and Indian monsoon intensity, inferred
from the occurrence of the anomalous sapropel Sa in the
Mediterranean and a peak in planktic oxygen isotope records
from the equatorial Indian Ocean (Bassinot et al., 1994a;
Rossignol-Strick et al., 1998), is commonly linked to this
event (Guo et al., 2009; Yin and Guo, 2008).
Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
Fig. 1. (a) NASA’s Aqua satellite picture, using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on 3 March 2009 (http:
The star indicates position of IMAGES Core MD04-2881 was recovered on 14 October 2004,
Figure 1
from a water depth of 2387 m at the Murray Ridge (22◦ 12� .5 N – 63◦ 05� .5 E) in the northeastern Arabian Sea (b) Oxygen profile through the
northern Arabian Sea.
Furthermore, the transition between MIS 14 and 13 coincides with the onset of the Mid-Brunhes dissolution interval (MBDI), which lasts until ∼280 ka (Barker et al., 2006;
Bassinot et al., 1994b; Droxler et al., 1988). This period of
extensive dissolution in the deep sea is probably not related
to enhanced greenhouse gas forcing, since Antarctic ice core
data and foraminiferal boron isotopes generally indicate low
atmospheric pCO2 levels, even within interglacial periods
during this time (Hönisch et al., 2009; Petit, 1999). An alternative explanation for the MBDI invokes an increase in lowlatitude shelf carbonate production (Droxler et al., 1997). To
add to that, it has been suggested that pelagic carbonate production increased globally due to the proliferation of the coccolithophore Gephyrocapsa (Bollmann et al., 1998), thereby,
causing widespread dissolution in the deep sea (Barker et al.,
2006). The most severe dissolution occured during MIS 11,
which followed on from the so-called Mid-Brunhes event
at ca. 430 ka (i.e. termination TV ), representing the largestamplitude change in δ 18 O of the global ocean over the past
6 million years (Wang et al., 2003).
In 2004, a long sediment core was recovered at the Murray Ridge, a submarine high in the northeastern Arabian Sea,
from a water depth of 2387 m, well below the present-day extension of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). The main aim
of the investigation of this core was to investigate the paleoceanographic changes in the Arabian Sea during the MPT,
since numerous studies only document these in great detail
from the past 400 000 years (Almogi-Labin et al., 2000; Altabet et al., 2002; Anderson et al., 2002; Budziak et al.,
2000; Clemens et al., 1991; Clemens and Prell, 1990, 2003;
Emeis et al., 1995; Gupta et al., 2003; Ishikawa and Motoyoshi, 2007; Ivanova et al., 2003; Jaeschke et al., 2009;
Leuschner and Sirocko, 2000, 2003; Lückge et al., 2001;
Naidu and Malmgren, 1996; Naidu, 2006; Pattan et al.,
2003; Prabhu and Shankar, 2005; Prell et al., 1980; Prell
and Campo, 1986; Prell and Kutzbach, 1992; Reichart et al.,
1997, 1998, 2002, 2004; Rostek et al., 1993, 1997; Saher
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
et al., 2007; Sarkar et al., 1990; Schmiedl and Leuschner,
2005; Schulte et al., 1999; Schulz et al., 1998; Sirocko et
al., 1993, 1996; Wang et al., 2005a). Using a multi-proxy
approach, we will report on the complex interplay of summer monsoon upwelling-related productivity changes, OMZ
intensity, glacial-interglacial variability in intermediate water contributions, supralysoclinal carbonate dissolution and
winter monsoon-related deep-mixing events. Special emphasis will be on the cause of the exceptional high productivity
conditions in the Arabian Sea during MIS 13.
Material and methods
Sediment core MD04-2881
The sedimentary sequence of the Murray Ridge provides
an excellent archive of past primary productivity and Indian
summer monsoon intensity (Pourmand et al., 2004; Reichart
et al., 1997, 1998, 2004; Schulz et al., 1998). IMAGES
Core MD04-2881 was recovered on 14 October 2004, from
a water depth of 2387 m at the Murray Ridge (22◦ 12� .5 N –
63◦ 05� .5 E) (Fig. 1). The sediment consists of homogeneous,
dark brownish to olive greenish to light greenish/yellowish
grey hemipelagic mud. The upper 34 m of the core have been
sub-sampled in 10 cm resolution. XRF and magnetic susceptibility scans have been performed in 1 cm resolution.
Analytical methods
An Avaatech XRF core scanner at the Royal Netherlands
Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ, Texel, Netherlands) has
been used to measure the bulk elemental composition of
the sediment core in high-resolution. The split core surface was cleaned and covered with a 4 µm thin SPEXCertiPrep Ultralene foil to avoid contamination and prevent
desiccation. Each section was scanned four times at
0.1 milliamps (mA)/5 kilovolts (kV) (no filter), 0.15 mA and
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
10 kV (no filter), 0.5 mA and 30 kV (Pd-thick filter) and
1 mA/50 kV (Cu-filter). A 1 cm2 area of the core surface
was irradiated with X-rays using 30 s count time (120 s for
the 50 kV setup). For further technical details on the XRF
scanning technique, see (Richter et al., 2006).
Reliability of XRF scanning counts has been tested by
comparing it to a lower-resolution sample set (10 cm) for
XRF measurements on discrete samples. 3–5 g of freezedried sediment was thoroughly ground. Residual moisture,
organic matter and carbonates were removed using a Leco
TGA (Thermo-Gravimetric Analysis), 600 mg of the residue
was mixed with 6 g flux (consisting of 66% lithium tetraborate, Li2 B4 O7 and 34% lithium metaborate, LiBO2) and
0.500 ml of a 30% lithium iodide solution and fused to glass
beads. Glass beads were measured using an ARL9400 X-ray
fluorescence spectrometer. Analytical precision, as checked
by parallel analysis of international reference material and
in-house standards, is better than 2% for Al, Ti better than
3% for Ba.
In general, XRF scanning is less suited for light elements
(Richter et al., 2006; Tjallingii et al., 2007). When comparing the elemental scanning counts for Al with the absolute
measurements on discrete samples, we find a low correlation (r 2 =0.38). This low correlation coefficient implies that
normalization to Aluminum (Al), which is commonly done
for elemental data, will lead to large uncertainties for the
XRF scanning dataset. We, therefore, rely only on the raw
counts for Barium (Ba), Calcium (Ca), Strontium (Sr), the
sum of the terrestrial elements and Bromine (Br). A comparison between depth profile of Ba scanning-counts with
the Ba/Al profile derived from conventional XRF measurements on discrete samples shows a perfect match between
the two (Fig. 3d). This perfect match is why we conclude
that closed-sum issues did not influence our record, in this
particular case.
Magnetic susceptibility of discrete samples was measured
on a Kappabridge KLY-2. Susceptibility was divided by the
sample’s dry weight, giving the mass magnetic susceptibility
[m3 /kg].
Stable isotope ratios were measured on the benthic
foraminifera Uvigerina peregrina (single specimen, size fraction 150–600µm) and the planktic foraminifera Neogloboquadrina dutertrei (∼20 specimen, 300–350 µm) and Globigerinoides ruber (∼50 specimen, 212–300 µm). A single specimen of the benthic foraminifera and aliquots of
the homogenized G. ruber samples were loaded into individual reaction vessels and each sample reacted with three
drops of H3 PO4 (specific gravity = 1.92) using a Finnigan
MAT Kiel III carbonate preparation device at Utrecht University. Long-term analytical precision was estimated to be
±0.07 for δ 18 O and ±0.03 for δ 13 C by measuring eleven
standards (international NBS-19 and in house NAXOS) with
each set of 38 samples. The Neogloboquadrina samples were
analyzed in an ISOCARB common bath carbonate preparation device linked on-line to VG SIRA24 mass spectrometer
also at Utrecht University. Isotope Values were calibrated to
the PeeDeeBelemnite (PDB) scale. Analytical precision was
determined by replicate analyses and by comparison to the
international (IAEA-CO1) and in-house carbonate standard
(NAXOS). Replicate analyses showed standard deviations of
±0.06 and ±0.1 for δ 13 C and δ 18 O, respectively.
Size-normalized weights of the planktic foraminiferal
species G. ruber were measured to estimate the amount of
carbonate dissolution. These measurements were done on
the same relative narrow size fraction (212–300 µm) used for
stable isotope analysis. The shells were weighed using a microbalance (precision 0.1 µg) and the mean weight is taken to
represent that population.
Total numbers of the deep-dwelling planktic foraminiferal
species Globorotalia truncatulinoides and Globoratalia
crassaformis were counted on splits of the 150–600 µm size
fractions from the wet, sieved freeze-dried sediment. The
counts are expressed as number per gram dry sediment. Certain intervals of the core are characterised by high abundances of “green grains”, which were counted on the same
sample splits and are expressed as number per gram dry sediment.
Age constraints are based on correlating the benthic δ 18 O U.
peregrina record to the LR04 benthic oxygen isotope stack
(Lisiecki and Raymo, 2005) (Fig. 2). This correlation shows
that MD04-2881 covers the past ∼750 000 years, although
the oldest ∼100 000 years are less well confined. The amplitude variations in the δ 18 O U. peregrina record are comparable to the global benthic stack, except for the interval below
∼600 ka, which shows only minor variations. The planktic
δ 18 O records from N. dutertrei and G. ruber largely confirm
the benthic isotope chronology. We do not find exceptionally
light isotope values in any of the two planktic records during
MIS 13, thereby questioning a monsoon related basin-wide
flooding event in the northern Indian Ocean during MIS 13
(Rossignol-Strick et al., 1998). On the other hand, one could
argue that also today most of the large river runoff from India
is directed towards the Bay of Bengal and, therefore, the local salinity in the northern Arabian Sea was potentially less
affected by an extreme increase in monsoon feed river discharge in the past. Similar to the U. peregrina record, a
dampened δ 18 O signal is found in the record of N. dutertrei
beyond ∼650 ka. The resulting age model indicates that interglacial periods are characterised by lower sedimentation
rates compared to glacial periods. Sedimentation rate is, in
particular, low during MIS 5 which may even suffer from a
The reason for the dampened isotopic signal in the lower
part of the core has not yet been solved, but it is well known
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
MIS 13
sed. rate (cm/kyr)
planktic b18ON.dutertrei
planktic b18OG.ruber
LR04 benthic stack
Age control points
Mag. Sus.
χ (x10-6m3kg-1)
LR04 benthic stack
LR04 benthic stack
LR04 benthic stack
and b18OU.peregrina
Time (kyr)
Fig. 2. Stable isotope records from MD04-2881 versus the global benthic isotope stack LR04 (black stippled line) (Lisiecki and Raymo,
2005). (a) Benthic δ 18 O (Uvigerina
perigrina). (b) Planktic δ 18 O of Neoglobigerina dutertrei. (c) Planktic δ 18 O of Globigerinoides ruber.
(d) Magnetic susceptibility. (e) Sedimentation rates of MD04-2881.
that the benthic isotope signal in the Arabian Sea has been
altered by OMZ variability through changes in carbonate
ion concentrations and supralysoclinal dissolution (Schmiedl
and Mackensen, 2006). Furthermore, changes in Arabian
Sea intermediate water masses between glacial and interglacial periods potentially influence the isotope signal (Jung
et al., 2001; Zahn et al., 1991), although it is not clear why
this would affect both benthic and planktic δ 18 O records.
Perhaps an increased diagenetic alteration of the isotopic
signal with depth may have played a critical role. Clearly,
the magnetic susceptibility record of MD04-2881 shows a
decreasing down-core trend with flat values below ∼650 ka
(Fig. 2), indicating the diagenetic removal of the magnetic
properties in the sediment by the decomposition of organic
matter and associated changes in the redox conditions of the
pore waters within this interval (Reichart et al., 1997).
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
OMZ intensity and productivity changes
Marine organic carbon (MOC) content of Murray Ridge sediment cores has previously been used as productivity and/or
OMZ intensity proxy (Reichart et al., 1998). It has recently
been shown that the Br counts from XRF scanning enabled
a fast and robust procedure to estimate the MOC content
of the sediment (Ziegler et al., 2008). The Br record of
MD04-2881 indicates that maximum MOC contents occur
during glacial periods, whereas the lowest values coincide
with glacial terminations (Fig. 3). These minimum values
are accompanied by peak occurrences of G. crassaformis and
G. truncatulinoides (Fig. 3). G. crassaformis and G. truncatulinoides are deep-dwelling planktic foraminiferal species
that reached high abundances in the Arabian Sea during extreme cold events in the North Atlantic (Reichart et al., 1998;
MIS 13
(discrete samples)
(discrete samples)
SNW (g)
LR04 benthic stack
and G.crassaformis
(no./g sed.)
Br (XRF counts)
Ba (XRF counts)
LR04 benthic stack
LR04 benthic stack
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
MIS 13
“Greem grains”
glauconite (no/g sed.)
LR04 benthic stack
LR04 benthic stack
Mid-Brunhes Dissolution interval
Depth (cm)
Fig. 3. Proxy records from MD04-2881 versus the global benthic isotope stack LR04 (black stippled line) (Lisiecki and Raymo, 2005).
(a) Bromine counts (XRF-core scanning). (b) Occurrence of Globorotalia truncatulinoides and Globorotalia crassaformis. (c) Ba/Al (black
line; XRF measurements on discrete samples) and Ba counts (red line; XRF-core scanning). (d) Size normalized weights of G. ruber.
(e) Ti/Al (XRF measurements on discrete samples). (f) Ca+Sr over terrestrial elements (XRF-core scanning). (g) Green Grains (no/g
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
Ziegler, 2009). Similar to the ice rafted debris layers in the
North Atlantic, peak occurrences of the Globorotalids usually do not last for more than a few thousand years and their
abundances always return to very low baseline values before
rising again. It has been suggested that their occurrences are
indicative for periods of intensified winter mixing due to extreme cold winter monsoons, resulting in a breakdown of the
OMZ (Reichart et al., 1998). Others argued that evidence for
the required salinity and/or sea surface temperature changes
in such a mechanism are missing and that the winter mixing theory is, therefore, hypothetical (Schulte et al., 1999).
These authors linked a break-down of the OMZ instead to
processes in the global oceanic circulation. The interval from
470 to 570 ka is remarkable, as it is the longest interval in
the record where no G. crassaformis or G. truncatulinoides
specimen occur.
Amongst others, Reichart et al. (1997, 1998) showed that
the MOC content of the Murray Ridge records co-varies with
other upwelling productivity indicators (e.g. Globigerina bulloides abundances and Ba/Al). Ba, for instance, has been
successfully applied as proxy for primary productivity (Dehairs et al., 1980; Gingele et al., 1999; Jacot Des Combes et
al., 1999; Shimmield and Mowbray, 1991). Barite crystals
precipitate in microenvironments within decaying organic
matter (Dehairs et al., 1980). One problem in the interpretation of Ba as productivity indicator lies in the distinction of
biogenic and detrital Ba. Normalization with Al is, therefore, commonly used to assess the detrital Ba component
(e.g. Gingele et al., 1999). The relative contribution of detrital Ba appears to be small at the Murray Ridge (Schenau
et al., 2001), so that the Ba records we obtained from MD042881 by XRF scanning and discrete sampling will primarily
reflect changes in productivity. Note that we will primarily
use the raw counts for Barium in our discussion, because they
are highly correlated with the Ba/Al ratios derived from the
discrete samples of the last 462 ka (Fig. 3).
Evidently, the Ba record co-varies with the benthic oxygen
isotope record, indicating highest primary productivity conditions during interglacial periods as was previously found
(Shimmield, 1992). This implies that the maximum MOC
contents during glacial periods, at the depth of our studied
core, are most likely related to other processes than increased
productivity conditions only, as has been suggested for other
Arabian Sea MOC records (Clemens and Prell, 2003; Murray
and Prell, 1992; Schmiedl and Leuschner, 2005).
A comparison of sediment cores from different water
depths at the Murray Ridge indicated that relatively shallow
cores from within the modern OMZ contain the highest MOC
contents during interglacial periods and that they vary inphase with other productivity proxies, while the deeper sites
(i.e. well below the present-day OMZ) contain the highest
MOC contents during glacial periods (Ziegler, 2009). This
suggests that the oxygen content, of the bottom water at the
core depth, and thereby the extension of the OMZ, is an important factor in controlling the depth dependent preservation
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
of organic matter. Primary productivity is a second factor, which becomes dominant in records that are constantly
within the OMZ. Higher sedimentation rates during glacial
periods would have further facilitated the preservation of organic carbon (Clemens and Prell, 2003), but this process cannot explain the differences in MOC content between various
water depths. On this basis, we may conclude that the Br
enrichments during glacial periods in MD04-2881 coincide
with an extreme downward extension of the OMZ. In turn,
the relative low Ba concentrations within the MOC maxima during glacial periods could be due to early diagenetic
processes. Arabian Sea sediments that are deposited well
within the modern OMZ are characterised by high Corg /Babio
ratios, because of a lower preservation of Barite upon deposition through sulfate-reducing conditions (Schenau et al.,
Dissolution and dilution processes
Bulk elemental concentrations of Ca and Sr versus the sum
of Al, Si, Ti, Fe and K reflect the input and preservation
of biogenic carbonate versus the relative input of terrestrial
material (Fig. 3). Because of its elevated location, the site
is shielded from the input of turbidities and fan sedimentation of the Indus. The terrestrial material is, therefore, most
likely eaolian (Reichart et al., 1997). Changes in the Ti/Al
ratio of the sediments from the Murray Ridge have been applied in former studies as indicators for grain size and, thus,
wind speed, since Titanium is concentrated in heavy minerals in the coarser size fraction (Reichart et al., 1997). The
Ti/Al record of MD04-2881 (derived from conventional XRF
measurements on discrete samples, not from XRF scanning)
shows a close relationship with glacial-interglacial variability (Fig. 3) as was previously found for the Oman Margin, with higher Ti/Al values corresponding to an increased
coarse-grained lithogenic flux into the Arabian Sea during
dry glacial periods (Clemens et al., 1996). The total concentration of terrestrial elements in MD04-2881 shows, however, no clear glacial-interglacial variability. Several interglacial periods are even characterised by increased terrestrial
element concentrations. This suggests that the bulk variations in terrestrial elements are dominated by the production and preservation of biogenic carbonate rather than by
Increased Ca and Sr contents and lower contents of terrestrial elements characterise the MBDI from 280 to 480 ka,
with the exception of MIS 11 (Fig. 3). Similar to MD042881, this carbonate plateau has been found in other Indian
Ocean cores and was related to long-term eccentricity-driven
cycles in the production of coccolithopores (Rickaby et al.,
2007). Extreme minimum Ca and Sr contents coincide with
MIS 5 and 13. These interglacial periods are characterised by
the lowest sedimentation rates and, hence, point to periods of
severe carbonate dissolution (Fig. 3).
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
Calcite dissolution may occur above the lysocline when
the metabolic release of CO2 during organic matter
remineralization leads to carbonate under-saturation in the
pore waters (Adler et al., 2001; Jahnke et al., 1994). This
supralysocline dissolution process typically occurs below the
OMZ in the Arabian Sea, where a high flux of organic material is accompanied by oxygen availability (Klöcker et al.,
2007; Schulte and Bard, 2003; Tachikawa et al., 2008). The
water depth of the studied core at around 2400 m was apparently strongly influenced by supralysoclinal dissolution during interglacial periods, when productivity conditions were
significantly enhanced.
Size normalized weights (SNW) of planktic foraminifera
have been used as an indicator for surface (Barker and Elderfield, 2002) and bottom water carbonate ion concentration [CO2−
3 ] (Broecker and Clark, 2001; Lohmann, 1995).
The SNW of G. ruber shows a good correlation with the
Ba record, but also with the extensive OMZ intensities during the glacial periods (Fig. 3). This suggests that the SNW
records may represent an even better picture of productivity
variations in the Arabian Sea than the Ba record, which could
have been altered during extended OMZ conditions. Anomalous low SNW values are found during MIS 13. Due to the
complete dissolution of foraminifers during MIS 5, no SNW
data could be obtained from this interval.
Furthermore, MIS 5 and 13 are characterised by large
numbers of light green to dark green grains in the sand
size fraction (Fig. 3). Green grains commonly occur at the
edges of oxygen-minimum zones and are composed of authigenic minerals, most commonly Glauconite (Kelly and
Webb, 1999; Mullins et al., 1985). They often form within
granular substrates such as faecal pellets or foraminiferal
chambers. Glauconite forms at or near the sediment surface
and requires low sedimentation rates, so that enough time
is available for biological alteration of detrital clay minerals (Worden and Morad, 2003). The process of glauconization is often associated with relatively shallow water depths
(<1000 m). The core depth of 2347 m is, to our knowledge,
one of the deepest water depth where in-situ Glauconite formation has been found yet (see also Wiewiora et al., 2001).
Intensity of the Indian-Asian monsoon
The atmospheric methane record from Antarctic ice cores
largely reflects the strength of tropical monsoon with a secondary input from boreal sources (Loulergue et al., 2008;
Ruddiman and Raymo, 2003). Widespread wetlands, during periods of increased summer monsoon precipitation, are
an important source of methane production when organic
material decays under reducing conditions. Therefore, the
atmospheric methane record provides important constraints
for the interpretation of productivity changes and associated
supralysoclinal dissolution intervals in our studied core from
the Arabian Sea in terms of monsoon variability.
Currently, the longest methane record is derived from
EPICA Dome C, which covers the last 800 000 years (Fig. 4).
Changes in methane concentrations are dominated by the
∼100-kyr glacial rhythm superimposed on the 23-kyr precession component (Loulergue et al., 2008; Spahni et al.,
2005). The strong imprint of the precession cycle is consistent with the outcome of climate model experiments,
which indicate that tropical monsoons respond primarily
to changes in Northern Hemisphere summer insolation on
orbital timescales (Kutzbach, 1981). The link between
monsoon variations and methane concentrations is supported by East Asian summer monsoon records from Chinese speleothem records, which show the same precession
phase for maximum summer monsoon intensity (Wang et
al., 2008). Recently, we carried out a transient simulation
with the intermediate complexity model CLIMBER-2 that
included both insolation and ice volume variations (Weber
and Tuenter, 2010; Ziegler, 2009). Indeed, this simulation reveals that the intensity of Indian-Asian summer monsoon precipitation responds to both forcing parameters, in
accordance with the Antarctic methane record over the past
650 kyr (Fig. 4). However, the methane record shows much
stronger 100 000 year glacial-interglacial component, which
is probably introduced by methane contribution from boreal
wetlands (Loulergue et al., 2008).
Overall, the variations in Ba and SNW records of MD042881 and, thus, productivity changes in the Arabian Sea and
associated changes in the carbonate ion concentration of the
water, share features with the methane record and model simulation (Fig. 4). However, a detailed comparison of the two
records shows an almost anti-phase relationship at the precession scale. A further marked difference, is the anomalous
high productivity peak and carbonate dissolution event associated with MIS 13. During this time, methane concentrations are lower than in every other interglacial period of the
last 500 000 years (Fig. 4). Also from a modelling perspective, the extreme summer monsoon maximum in MIS 13 is
unexpected, because (1) benthic isotope records indicate that
MIS 13 is a relatively cool interglacial (Lisiecki and Raymo,
2005), with remnant ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere,
and (2) Northern Hemisphere summer insolation maxima are
not particularly strong in this period, although the earth’s
eccentricity was at a maximum around 500 ka (Laskar et
al., 1993).
We note that high productivity conditions in the Arabian
Sea during MIS 13 linked to enhanced summer monsoon
activity would to some extend match with earlier interpretations. The anomalous sapropel (Sa) in the Mediterranean
at 528–525 ka and a synchronous peak in planktic oxygen
isotope records from the equatorial Indian Ocean have been
interpreted as indicators of an unusually heavy monsoon
event over Africa and Asia at the start of MIS 13 (Bassinot
et al., 1994a; Rossignol-Strick et al., 1998). However,
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
MIS 13
LR04 benthic stack
Ba (XRF counts)
Ba (XRF counts)
Indian Mosnoon precip.
Atmospheric methane EPICA
Magnetic Susceptibility
Dome C (p.p.b.v.)
stack, Chinese Loess Plateau
Time (ka)
Fig. 4. Comparison between the Ba record of MD04-2881 and other paleoclimate-records. (a) Comparison with LR04 benthic isotope
stack (b) Comparison with magnetic susceptibility stack from the Chinese Loess Plateau (Clemens et al., 2008). (c) Atmospheric methane
Figure 4
concentration from EPICA Dome C (Loulergue et al., 2008) compared with modelled Indian monsoon precipitation (CLIMBER-2) (Ziegler,
2009; Weber and Tuenter, 2010).
more recently, the timing of the Sa sapropel was evaluated
by Lourens (2004), showing that it occurs within MIS 14,
∼20 000 years earlier as originally proposed, thus, questioning the correlation with the isotope excursion in the
equatorial Indian Ocean. In addition to that, the Eastern
Mediterranean planktic oxygen isotope records presented by
Lourens (2004) indicate no extreme freshwater signal in connection with the sapropel Sa.
In the following, we argue, based on the evidence from
the methane record, that MIS 13 was most likely not characterised by an extreme, global summer monsoon event. This
line of reasoning is further substantiated by new results from
the Sanbao Cave speleothems. The extended cave record
shows no anomalous isotope signature during MIS 13, arguing against abnormally high rates of precipitation during
MIS 13 (H. Cheng, personal communication, 2009). We
also note that the equatorial Indian Ocean isotope peak is a
relatively short-lived event which contrasts the Arabian Sea
productivity maximum, which appears to cover the whole
MIS 13. This might indicate that different mechanisms are
responsible for the observed events. As a consequence of our
argumentation here, the equatorial Indian Ocean oxygen isotope excursion in MIS 13 requires a new explanation. Future
research on new, long sedimentary records from the Bay of
Bengal will provide additional information, which is necessary to solve this open question.
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
Inferences from the Chinese loess plateau
The Chinese loess plateau (CLP) is considered another important climate archive for the reconstruction of the Asian
summer and winter monsoon as far back as 22 million years
ago (Ding et al., 1995; Guo et al., 2002; Kukla et al., 1988;
Porter and An, 1995). The winter monsoon transports dust
from the Asian inlands to the CLP, while the summer monsoon brings precipitation (Porter and An, 1995). Successive
loess and soil layers are, therefore, interpreted as alternating
periods of strengthened winter (cold and dry) and summer
monsoon (wet and warm), respectively. Recently it has been
suggested that it is actually the breakdown of the Siberian
High during spring that produces windstorms and associated
dust deposition (Roe, 2009). Most proxies that have been
used to unravel the history of the loess sequence (e.g. magnetic susceptibility) reflect the degree of chemical weathering and, thus, soil formation (Liu and Ding, 1998). Many
loess records are dominated by glacial-interglacial variability
superimposed by millennial scale events, which correlate to
Heinrich events (Ding et al., 1995; Liu and Ding, 1998;
Porter and An, 1995).
The Ba and, to a lesser degree, SNW records of MD042881 show a high similarity with a magnetic susceptibility
stack from the CLP (Clemens et al., 2008). In contrast to
the Antarctic methane record and model simulation, the exceptional high productivity conditions reached during MIS
13 coincided with an exceptional thick soil horizon S5 in
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
some loess records of the central CLP (Guo et al., 2000;
Sun et al., 2006b), and with an extreme event in a monsoon record from the Tibetan plateau (Chen et al., 1999).
There are, however, noticeable regional differences in the expression of the S5 soil horizon (Sun et al., 2006a). While
records from the central CLP expose a thick well-developed
soil horizon, the S5 is hardly detected in the northwestern
area. It was suggested that maximum intensities of summer
monsoon precipitation did not reach this region until MIS 11
(Sun et al., 2006a). The latter observation is in much better
agreement with the Antarctic methane record, which shows
that methane concentrations were significantly lower during
MIS 13 than during the interglacial periods after the MidBrunhes event, MBE, at ∼430 ka (Loulergue et al., 2008;
Spahni et al., 2005).
Another major difference between the loess records of
the central and northwestern site of the CLP is that in the
central region soil occurrences are determined by glacialinterglacial variability, while they exhibit a strong precession imprint in the northwest (Sun et al., 2006a). The
latter observation is not only in good agreement with the
Antarctic methane record, but also with the Indian-Asian
summer monsoon reconstructions derived from the Chinese
speleothem oxygen isotope records of the Sanbao and Hulu
caves, which indicate primarily 23-kyr precession cycles
over the last 225 000 years (Wang et al., 2008). Similar to
the loess records, the speleothem-derived monsoon record is
overprinted by rapid events, which occur synchronously with
climate variations in the North Atlantic region (Wang et al.,
2005b; Wang et al., 2001).
Cause of the extensive productivity conditions
during MIS13
Comparison of the Chinese loess records with temperature
records from Antarctica have led to the suggestion that the
climates of both hemispheres are unusually asymmetric during MIS 13 (Guo et al., 2009). Accordingly, Northern Hemisphere mean annual temperatures, evidenced by extreme soil
formation in the Loess Plateau record, weakest Asian winter
monsoon and lowest Asian dust and iron fluxes, were much
warmer than at the Southern Hemisphere, because the global
oxygen isotope record is characterised by relatively positive
values (Guo et al., 2009). Moreover, the Deuterium (δD)
record of the EPICA Dome C ice core showed relatively cold
interglacial temperatures during MIS 13, indicating that at
least Antarctic temperatures were cold with respect to the
successive interglacial periods (Jouzel et al., 2007). On the
other hand, data from a glaciomarine sedimentary sequence
from the West Antarctic continental margin suggest that the
interval spanning MIS 15–13 was one single, prolonged interglacial period, which potentially experienced a collapse of
the West Antarctic Ice sheet (Hillenbrand et al., 2009).
Warm Northern Hemisphere annual temperatures are consistent with the continuous forestation and inferred reduced
mountain glaciations in central Eurasia throughout MIS 15
to 11 (Prokopenko et al., 2002). Tree growth is particularly sensitive to wintertime climate. Therefore, this period
was probably characterised by mild winters, with relatively
little snow cover. Such mild winter conditions would explain the absence of G. crassaformis or G. truncatulinoides
in our Arabian Sea record in this interval. In addition, the
higher winter temperatures may explain the thick soil horizon S5 in the central CLP. First it may facilitate pedogenesis through enhanced chemical weathering, and secondly a
less intense winter monsoon may lead to a reduction of dust
flux to the loess sites. As an alternative explanation from a
modelling study, it was suggested that a precipitation maximum during MIS 13 could have occurred because of a reinforcement of the summer monsoon by an intermediate sized
Eurasian ice-sheet (Yin et al., 2008). Such a scenario, however, does not explain the regional differences between the
loess records and absence of a distinct monsoon event in the
EPICA methane record during MIS 13. We, therefore, suggest that the anomalous climate patterns observed worldwide
during MIS 13 are not primarily linked to changes in the intensity of the monsoon, but reflect an important turnover in
the Atlantic circulation.
During the interim state of the MPT, the formation of
North Atlantic deep water (NADW) was decreased and deep
waters were influenced by a large Southern Hemisphere
component (Raymo et al., 1997; Schmieder et al., 2000).
Around TVI , a series of events occurred in the South Atlantic, which point to a significant increase in NADW formation during that time (Gingele and Schmieder, 2001; Romero
and Schmieder, 2006; Schmieder et al., 2000): (1) A very
high production of NADW has been inferred from globally distributed benthic carbon isotope records (Raymo et
al., 1997). (2) During MIS 13 an extreme δ 13 Cmax occurs,
which has been interpreted as a major reorganization in the
carbon reservoir of the global ocean (Wang et al., 2001).
(3) A certain group of benthic foraminifera became extinct
(Gupta et al., 2006; Kawagata et al., 2006). (4) An increased
poleward heat transport in the Atlantic Ocean has been evidenced by pollen records offshore Greenland (de Vernal and
Hillaire-Marcel, 2008). These records suggest that the size
of the Greenland ice-sheet was much more reduced than today, even though the benthic isotope record indicates a larger
global ice volume during MIS 13.
A modelling study showed that increased NADW formation affects primary productivity and OMZ intensity in the
Arabian Sea through increased nutrient availability on millennial time scales (Schmittner et al., 2007). In a separate
study, we argued that the orbitally-induced primary productivity changes in the Arabian Sea are also very sensitive to the
global ocean circulation rather than only summer monsoon
intensity, therefore, causing a much longer precession phaselag (Ziegler, 2009). Similarly, we propose that the productivity peak and associated anomalous dissolution event during
MIS 13 relates to increased Atlantic overturning circulation
Clim. Past, 6, 63–76, 2010
M. Ziegler et al.: High Arabian Sea productivity conditions during MIS 13
around TVI . At the same time, increased heat transport to
high northern latitudes might have caused the exceptionally
mild winter conditions in Eurasia. Denton et al. (2005) suggested that the winter climate was much more sensitive to
past changes in Atlantic meridional overturning, due to seaice related feedback mechanisms. Accordingly, intensified
AMO may have resulted in mild winter conditions, facilitating soil formation on the central CLP. This implies that both
Arabian Sea productivity and CLP soil formation was effectively decoupled from Asian summer monsoon intensity during MIS 13.
A high-resolution multi-proxy record from the north-eastern
Arabian Sea of the past 750 ka reveals productivity changes,
which oscillate primarily in concert with the ∼100 kyr
glacial-interglacial rhythm. Highest productivity peaks are
associated with interglacial periods. In contrast, the base of
the OMZ deepens during glacial periods, suggesting that intermediate water ventilation played an important role. Termination TVI differs from the other major late Pleistocene terminations (TI−V and TVII ) by the absence of a strong winter
monsoon-related event in the Arabian Sea. During MIS 13,
primary productivity conditions were anomalously high and
led to extreme carbonate dissolution and glauconitization in
the deep-sea sediments. An intensive Atlantic overturning
circulation during this time may have triggered mild winter conditions found in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere and, thereby, weakened the Asian winter monsoon.
In turn, enhanced NADW production during TVI may have
increased the supply of nutrients to the Arabian Sea, thereby,
setting the stage for the anomalously high productivity conditions and the carbonate dissolution event during MIS 13.
The presented interpretation constitutes an alternative view
on MIS 13, which has been linked to an extreme boreal summer monsoon event in earlier studies. Future research, especially on long sedimentary records from the Bay of Bengal
will potentially provide crucial information, which is necessary to finally answer the isotope stage 13 monsoon question.
Acknowledgements. This study is supported by the Research
Council for Earth and Life Sciences (ALW) with financial aid from
the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to
L. J. Lourens (grants 853.00.032 and 834.04.003). We thank Luc
Beaufort for editorial comments, as well as Steven Clemens and an
anonymous reviewer for their thoughtful comments, which helped
to improve this manuscript. A. van Dijk, R. Giles, G. Ittmann,
T. Richter and A. Vaars are thanked for the technical support.
Jan-Willem Zachariasse, initiator of the CHAMAK-IODP cruise
is particularly acknowledged as well as the other crew members of
R/V Marion Dufresne and NIOZ technicians for their shipboard
Edited by: L. Beaufort
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