Surface-ocean variability in the northern Gulf of Mexico during the late Holocene



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The surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) are a major moisture source for North America and play an important role in modulating the hydroclimate of the region. Predictions of future changes in surface-ocean variability in the GOM and hydroclimatic changes in response to greenhouse gas forcing must be placed in context of past changes. However, the instrumental record of sea-surface temperature (SST) and salinity (SSS) observations in the GOM is too brief to examine climate variability on multidecadal-to-centennial timescales; thus, proxy records of SST and SSS variability as encoded in marine sedimentary archives must be used to extract information about climate change on these timescales. In this work, I produce a near-decadal-resolution record of SST and SSS variability in the northern GOM over the last 4,400 years. These paleo-records are based on the measurement of the stable isotopic and trace metal composition of planktic foraminifer Globigerinoides ruber (White) shells in a suite of multicores from the Garrison Basin, northern GOM (26º 40.19’N,93º 55.22’W). The fidelity of this proxy is assessed by performing geochemical measurements on in-situ samples from a nearby sediment trap and by performing statistical data-model comparisons with a foraminiferal forward model that can simulate different calcification depth habitats and seasonal productivity. Next, I construct a computational algorithm that characterizes uncertainty in foraminiferal reconstructions including age, analytical, calibration, ecological, sampling, and preservation errors. The utility of this algorithm is shown by applying it to several previously published records. It is also used to place the new Garrison Basin SST and SSS reconstructions in a quantitative uncertainty framework. I diagnose the controls of multidecadal-to-centennial-scale SST and SSS variability in the GOM (and establish its relationship with Atlantic Ocean circulation) by performing correlation analyses using observations, reanalysis datasets, and transient models. Several other marine and terrestrial proxy records spanning the last millennium are synthesized to document a coordinated linkage between Atlantic Ocean circulation and Western Hemisphere precipitation. This work hypothesizes that a century-scale linkage between ocean circulation and precipitation variability occurred over the last millennium, and perhaps the late Holocene, thereby providing a new perspective on long-term climate change.