Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Research article
30 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 30 Aug 2011

Sensitivity of Red Sea circulation to sea level and insolation forcing during the last interglacial

G. Trommer, M. Siccha, E. J. Rohling, K. Grant, M. T. J. van der Meer, S. Schouten, U. Baranowski, and M. Kucera

Abstract. This study investigates the response of Red Sea circulation to sea level and insolation changes during termination II and across the last interglacial, in comparison with termination I and the Holocene. Sediment cores from the central and northern part of the Red Sea were investigated by micropaleontological and geochemical proxies. The recovery of the planktic foraminiferal fauna following high salinities during marine isotopic stage (MIS) 6 took place at similar sea-level stand (~50 m below present day), and with a similar species succession, as during termination I. This indicates a consistent sensitivity of the basin oceanography and the plankton ecology to sea-level forcing. Based on planktic foraminifera, we find that increased water exchange with the Gulf of Aden especially occurred during the sea-level highstand of interglacial MIS 5e. From MIS 6 to the peak of MIS 5e, northern Red Sea sea surface temperature (SST) increased from 21 °C to 25 °C, with about 3 °C of this increase taking place during termination II. Changes in planktic foraminiferal assemblages indicate that the development of the Red Sea oceanography during MIS 5 was strongly determined by insolation and monsoon strength. The SW Monsoon summer circulation mode was enhanced during the termination, causing low productivity in northern central Red Sea core KL9, marked by high abundance of G. sacculifer, which – as in the Holocene – followed summer insolation. Core KL11 records the northern tip of the intruding intermediate water layer from the Gulf of Aden and its planktic foraminifera fauna shows evidence for elevated productivity during the sea-level highstand in the southern central Red Sea. By the time of MIS 5 sea-level regression, elevated organic biomarker BIT values suggest denudation of soil organic matter into the Red Sea and high abundances of G. glutinata, and high reconstructed chlorophyll-a values, indicate an intensified NE Monsoon winter circulation mode. Our results imply that the amplitude of insolation fluctuations, and the resulting monsoon strength, strongly influence the Red Sea oceanography during sea-level highstands by regulating the intensity of water exchange with the Gulf of Aden. These processes are responsible for the observation that MIS 5e/d is characterized by higher primary productivity than the Holocene.