Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 202 has opened a new window into understanding late Paleogene and Neogene global environmental change by providing high-quality sediment sequences from a previously unsampled region, the eastern South Pacific. Eleven sites (1232–1242) that record variations on timescales ranging from decades to tens of millions of years were drilled and investigated on transects of both depth (489–4072 m) and latitude (41°S–8°N). Building on the shipboard results presented in the Leg 202 Initial Reports volume, postcruise research has significantly improved the stratigraphic framework and provided new insights into climate-related processes, which operate on different timescales and are relevant to hypotheses concerning the bipolar "see-saw" climate mechanism, orbitally driven changes in the continent-ocean-ice-atmosphere system and tectonic processes associated with the uplift of the Andes, closure of the Central American Seaway, and major expansions of polar ice sheets.
Stable isotope records and refinements in bio- and magnetostratigraphy in combination with orbitally tuned cyclostratigraphy significantly improved the Pleistocene stratigraphy at Sites 1233 and 1234, the Miocene–Pliocene stratigraphy at Sites 1236, 1237, 1239, and 1241, and the Oligocene stratigraphy around the late Oligocene climate optimum at Site 1237. Site 1233 filled a crucial gap in the stratigraphic and paleoceanographic archive of the South Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean by providing an outstanding reproducible accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C-dated paleomagnetic record of centennial- and millennial-scale variability, representing regional variations in environmental/climatic conditions for the past 70,000 yr. With regard to the Cenozoic timetable, the continuous and complete sedimentary sequence of Site 1237, spanning the last ~31 m.y., has the potential of becoming a stratigraphic reference section for the South Pacific. Postcruise work demonstrated the excellence of this record for producing a stratigraphic framework that combines the biostratigraphy and terrific magnetostratigraphy with orbitally tuned stable isotope records.
With respect to the bipolar see-saw hypotheses, Leg 202 studies on high-resolution records changed the view of the global distribution of millennial-scale climate change. These studies clearly demonstrate that millennial-scale climate and biogeochemical systems of the southeast Pacific and Chile closely align with those recorded in Antarctica and the southern oceans and that these climate patterns extend to the equatorial Pacific, either transmitted directly by the eastern boundary current or indirectly by "the oceanic tunnel" (subsurface transport via Antarctic Mode or Intermediate Water, Equatorial Undercurrent) injecting Southern Hemisphere extratropical water masses into the equatorial upwelling system.
On orbital timescales, most spectacular was the finding that Earth's final transition into an "icehouse" climate ~13.9 m.y. ago, the middle Miocene intensification of Antarctic glaciation, coincided with a striking transition from obliquity to eccentricity as the drivers of climate change. Thus, the late Pleistocene 100-k.y. climate cycles are not unique in Earth's history, and although the examples from the Miocene and Pleistocene are both associated with climate cooling, they occur under significantly different global boundary conditions. This important contribution from Leg 202 issues a challenge to climatologists to understand multiple origins of 100-k.y. climate cycles that are now well documented in the geologic record.
On timescales of millions of years, late Neogene upper ocean temperature reconstructions in combination with salinity assessments at selected sites from Leg 202 provide further insights into the reorganization of ocean-atmosphere couplings that are linked to the shoaling of the Central American Seaway (CAS), uplift of the Andes, and Pliocene amplification of polar ice sheet expansion. Regional shoaling of the thermocline in the low-latitude eastern Pacific from 5.3 to 4.0 Ma most likely resulted from shoaling of the CAS, as suggested by model experiments. Mixed-layer cooling and freshening in the tropical northeast Pacific warm pool as well as declining sea-surface temperature (SST) and increasing biological productivity off Chile parallel intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation from 3.6 to 2.4 Ma. The similarity of temporal changes in SST, upwelling, and dust flux between the Benguela and Chile upwelling systems suggests that uplift of the Andes was probably of secondary importance for generating the observed changes in the southeast Pacific within the last 6 m.y., as the Benguela upwelling system was not affected by mountain uplift. The expected atmosphere-oceanic response of the southeast Pacific to uplift of the Andes probably played a larger role during the late Miocene, prior to 6 Ma.
A particular scientific challenge of future Leg 202 paleoclimate research is to better understand the transitions between these different timescales with respect to couplings between global, regional, and local processes.
1Tiedemann, R., and Mix, A., 2007. Leg 202 synthesis: southeast Pacific paleoceanography. In Tiedemann, R., Mix, A.C., Richter, C., and Ruddiman, W.F. (Eds.), Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 202: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program), 1–56. doi:10.2973/odp.proc.sr.202.201.2007
2Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Section Marine Geology and Paleontology, Columbusstrasse, D-27568 Bremerhaven, Germany. email@example.com
3College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, COAS Administration Building 104, Oregon State University, Corvallis OR 97331-5503 USA.
Initial receipt: 14 June 2006
Acceptance: 12 February 2007
Web publication: 20 March 2007