Deep-water formation variability in the north-western Mediterranean Sea during the last 2500 yr: A proxy validation with present-day data

Mercè Cisneros, Isabel Cacho, Jaime Frigola, Anna Sanchez-Vidal, Antoni Calafat, Rut Pedrosa-Pàmies, Aitor Rumín-Caparrós, Miquel Canals

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    © 2019 The Authors Here we investigate the sensitivity of deep-water formation in the north-western Mediterranean Sea to climate variability during the last 2500 yr. With this purpose, the grain-size parameter UP10 (fraction > 10 μm) is used as a proxy for intensity of deep-water circulation. Such a proxy is first validated through the analysis of oceanographic data collected from October 2012 to October 2014 by means of two deep-water mooring lines equipped with sediment traps and currentmeters in the Gulf of Lion and north of Minorca Island. Enhancements of deep current speed resulted from dense shelf water cascading and open-sea deep convection in February 2013 leading to dense-water formation. The grain-size distribution of settling particles from sediment traps collected during 2012–2013 shows a distinctive particle mode and high UP10 values correlated to deep-water formation. These data are consistent with grain-size values in sediment cores from the north of Minorca, thus supporting the validity of the UP10 parameter to reconstruct changes of intensity in deep-water formation and associated near-bottom currents. The deep-water sediment record of the north of Minorca for the last 2.5 kyr shows that the strongest deep-water formation events occurred during relatively warm intervals, such as the Roman Period (123 BCE-470 CE), the end of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (900–1275 CE) and the first part of the Little Ice Age (1275–1850 CE). By contrast, our data indicate a progressive reduction in the overturning conditions during the Early Middle Ages (470–900 CE) resulting in weaker deep-water formation events during most of the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Intense deep-water formation events appear to be mostly associated with periods of enhanced Evaporation-Precipitation balance rather than to buoyancy loss due to winter cooling only. Our results suggest that warm sea surface temperature during spring months could have played an important role by increasing the Evaporation–Precipitation balance and favouring buoyany loss by increased of salinity. The comparison our data with other oceanographic and climatic records indicates a change in the proxy relation before and after the Early Middle Ages. Western Mediterranean Deep Water and Levantine Intermediate Water behave in opposite way after the Early Middle Ages, thus indicating that the previously proposed Mediterranean see-saw pattern in the Evaporation-Precipitation balance also influenced convection patterns in the basins during the last 1500 yr. These changes are discussed in the frame of different configurations of the North Atlantic Oscillation and East Atlantic/ West Russian modes of atmospheric variation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-68
    JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


    • Deep-water formation
    • Dense shelf water cascading
    • Last 2500 years
    • Mediterranean Sea
    • Open-sea deep convection
    • Western Mediterranean Deep Water


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