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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Erin McClymont

Petrick, B., McClymont, E.L., Felder, S., Rueda, G., Leng, M.J. & Rosell-Melé, A. (2015). Late Pliocene upwelling in the Southern Benguela region. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 429: 62-71.

Author(s) from Durham


The Late Pliocene has been proposed as a possible analogue for understanding future climate change and for testing climate models. Previous work has shown that during the Pliocene the major upwelling systems were relatively warm, and that this meant they were either inactive, contracted, or were upwelling warmer waters than present. Here, we examine evidence from a site located on the margins of the modern Benguela Upwelling system to test whether the upwelling cells had migrated or contracted relative to present during the Pliocene.

We applied several organic geochemistry proxies and foraminiferal analyses to reconstruct the Pliocene history of ODP Site 1087 (31°28′S, 15°19′E, 1374 m water depth), including the UK37′ and TEX86 indices (for reconstructing sea surface temperatures), phytoplankton biomarker concentrations and stable isotope ratios (for estimating export primary productivity, and for oxygen isotope statigraphy), and planktonic foraminifera assemblage abundances (for inferring water mass changes). These proxies show that, between 3.5 and 3.0 Ma, the southern Benguela region was cooler than the northern Benguela region by 5 °C, the latter being where the main upwelling cells are found today. From the multiproxy data obtained, we also infer that more extensive upwelling was present in the southern Benguela region during the Pliocene than at present, and that the Benguela Upwelling cells shifted northwards after the Pliocene epoch as a result of changes in the local wind field. We also find evidence that the Benguela Upwelling was sensitive to the pronounced cooling during the M2 and KM2 glacial stages, potentially associated with the expansion of sea ice and cooling in Antarctica in the Late Pliocene.