Upwelling along the western coast of Africa south of the equator may be partitioned into three major areas, each having its own dynamics and history: (1) the eastern equatorial region, comprising the Congo Fan and the area of Mid-Angola; (2) the Namibia upwelling system, extending from the Walvis Ridge to Lüderitz; and (3) the Cape Province region, where upwelling is subdued. The highest nutrient contents in thermocline waters are in the northern region, the lowest in the southern one. Wind effects are at a maximum near the southern end of the Namibia upwelling system, and maximum productivity occurs near Walvis Bay, where the product between upwelling rate and nutrient content of upwelled waters is at a maximum.
In the Congo/Angola region, opal tends to follow organic carbon quite closely in the Quaternary record. However, organic carbon has a strong precessional component, while opal does not. Despite relatively low opal content, sediments off Angola show the same patterns as those off the Congo; thus, they are part of the same regime. The spectrum shows nonlinear interference patterns between high- and low-latitude forcing, presumably tied to thermocline fertility and wind.
On Walvis Ridge, as in the Congo-Angola region, the organic matter record behaves normally; that is, supply is high during glacial periods. In contrast, interglacial periods are favorable for opal deposition. The pattern suggests reduction in silicate content of the thermocline during glacial periods. The reversed phase (opal abundant during interglacials) persists during the entire Pleistocene and can be demonstrated deep into the Pliocene, not just on Walvis Ridge but all the way to the Oranje River and off the Cape Province. From comparison with other regions, it appears that silicate is diminished in the global thermocline, on average, whenever winds become strong enough to substantially shorten the residence time of silicate in upper waters (Walvis Hypothesis, solving the Walvis Paradox of reversed phase in opal deposition).
The central discovery during Leg 175 was the documentation of a late Pliocene opal maximum for the entire Namibia upwelling system (early Matuyama Diatom Maximum [MDM]). The maximum is centered on the period between the end of the Gauss Chron and the beginning of the Olduvai Chron. A rather sharp increase in both organic matter deposition and opal deposition occurs near 3 Ma in the middle of the Gauss Chron, in association with a series of major cooling steps. As concerns organic matter, high production persists at least to 1 Ma, when there are large changes in variability, heralding subsequent pulsed production periods. From 3 to 2 Ma, organic matter and opal deposition run more or less parallel, but after 2 Ma opal goes out of phase with organic matter. Apparently, this is the point when silicate becomes limiting to opal production. Thus, the MDM conundrum is solved by linking planetary cooling to increased mixing and upwelling (ramping up to the MDM) and a general removal of silicate from the upper ocean through excess precipitation over global supply (ramping down from the MDM).
The hypothesis concerning the origin of the Namibia opal acme or MDM is fundamentally the same as the Walvis Hypothesis, stating that glacial conditions result in removal of silicate from the thermocline (and quite likely from the ocean as a whole, given enough time). The Namibia opal acme, and other opal maxima in the latest Neogene in other regions of the ocean, marks the interval when a cooling ocean selectively removes the abundant silicate inherited from a warm ocean. When the excess silicate is removed, the process ceases. According to the data gathered during Leg 175, major upwelling started in the late part of the late Miocene. Presumably, this process contributed to the drawing down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to prepare the way for Northern Hemisphere glaciation.
1Berger, W.H., Lange, C.B., and Wefer, G., 2002. Upwelling history of the Benguela-Namibia system: a synthesis of Leg 175 results. In Wefer, G., Berger, W.H., and Richter, C. (Eds.), Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 175 [Online]. Available from World Wide Web: <http://www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/175_SR/synth/synth.htm> [Cited YYYY-MM-DD]
2Geosciences Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla CA 92093, USA. Correspondence author: firstname.lastname@example.org
3Geowissenschaften, University of Bremen, Postfach 330440, Bremen D-28334, Germany.
receipt: 27 November 2000
Acceptance: 24 October 2001
Web publication: 5 February 2002