Ice Age climate caused sediment sourcing in Gulf of Mexico to switch dramatically

ScienceDaily | 1/16/2019 | Staff
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The research found that the same climatic changes that grew glaciers across the northern hemisphere reduced sediment production in southern Mexico while ramping up sediment production along the catchment of the Mississippi River.

The study was previously made available online on October 8, 2018 ahead of final publication in print on Nov.1, 2018, in the journal Geology. Angela Hessler, the director of the Deep Time Institute, led the research. It was co-authored by Jacob Covault, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geology; Daniel Stockli, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences; and Andrea Fildani, a scientist at the Equinor Research Center Austin.

Bureau - Economic - Geology - Research - Unit

The Bureau of Economic Geology is a research unit of the Jackson School.

The Gulf of Mexico has been catching sediments transported by rivers for about 200 million years. The layers of sediments that accumulate on the seafloor record information about the origin of the sediments and the erosive processes that lifted them from the rock. In this study, the scientists examined sediments deposited during the 20-million-year transition from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, when the Earth's climate transitioned from a relatively warm period to an ice age.

Transition - Climate-wise - Hessler - Climate - Cycles

"It's an important transition climate-wise," said Hessler. "Climate cycles changed, and it's possible that changed the erodibility and the transport mechanism across North America to be able to shed all this material out toward Mexico."

Based on the composition of the sediments, the researchers were able to determine that the primary supply of sediments during the middle-to-late Miocene came from rivers in southern Mexico. This came as a surprise because of the rivers' relatively small catchment -- an area in the tropical highlands of Mexico about 300-by-500-square kilometers, or about the size of Illinois. However, the sediments revealed that what...
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