IODP Survey of the "Shackleton sites" on the Southwest Iberian Margin

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Earth Sciences


Advances in our understanding of the Earth's climate system will rely on our ability to link high-resolution sedimentary archives from the oceans, ice-cores and terrestrial sequences, and to interpret these records in the context of novel Earth system modeling approaches. Few places exist in the world where sufficiently detailed and unambiguous marine-ice-terrestrial linkages are possible. One challenge for IODP, and the broader drilling community in general, is to identify and recover marine, ice and terrestrial sequences from appropriate locations and with adequate temporal resolution to study processes of the integrated climate system.

One such region is the southwest Iberian Margin where Nick Shackleton demonstrated that the surface oxygen isotopic record could be correlated precisely to temperature variations (i.e., d18O) in Greenland ice cores. By comparison, the benthic d18O signal in the same core resembled the temperature record from Antarctica. Moreover, the narrow continental shelf and proximity of the Tagus River results in the rapid delivery of terrestrial material to the deep-sea environment off Portugal, thereby providing a record of atmospheric changes and permitting correlation of marine and ice core records to European terrestrial sequences. This is the only place in the ocean where such marine-ice-terrestrial correlations have been demonstrated unambiguously. It is therefore highly desirable to extend the Iberian Margin record to encompass the full range of Plio-Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles by drilling with the JOIDES Resolution (JR).

Towards this end, Proposal 771-Full was submitted to IODP by an international group of 16 proponents led by the UK. The proposal was well received and reviewed by the Science Steering and Evaluation Panel (SSEP), but the IODP Site Survey Panel (SSP) identified major inadequacies in the quality of the seismic:

"The panel raised several concerns on the suitability of the submitted data with regard to its appropriateness, both to image the target properly and with regard to the site location. The panel also discussed the need for 2 high-resolution lines and considered that places where Mass Transport Deposits (MTDs) or closely spaced faults were present deserved these 2 high-resolution lines."

This project requests 20 days of ship time to collect the necessary seismic and sediment data needed to meet the SSP requirements and recommendations. Several "stand-alone" scientific objectives are also proposed related to the modern hydrography and sedimentary processes on the southwest Iberian Margin, and calibration of palaeoceanographic proxies used for reconstructing past changes in deep-water circulation. This value-added science will make effective use of ship time and make a fundamental contribution to the interpretation of downcore records.

Planned Impact

See joint proposal from cambridge


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