The Late Miocene to Early Pliocene “Humid Interval” on the NW Australian Shelf: Disentangling Climate Forcing From Regional Basin Evolution

B. Th Karatsolis, D. De Vleeschouwer, J. Groeneveld, B. Christensen, J. Henderiks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Pre-Quaternary paleoclimate studies in Australia mainly focus on terrestrial records from the southeastern part of the continent. IODP Expedition 356 drilled on the northwestern Australian shelf, yielding Miocene-Pleistocene paleoclimate records in an area where climate archives are scarce. Postexpedition research revealed a dry-to-humid transition across the latest Miocene and early Pliocene (start of the “Humid Interval”). However, the complex tectonic history of the area makes these interpretations challenging. In this study, we investigate late Miocene to early Pliocene sediment cores from two sites that are only 100 km apart but situated in two adjacent basins (Northern Carnarvon and Roebuck Basins). Combining lithofacies study, time series analysis of potassium content (K wt%), and calcareous nannofossil abundance counts (N/g), this work disentangles the complex interplay between basin evolution and climate change between 6.1 and 4 Ma. Overall, the investigated proxies show high correlation between both sites, except during 6.1–5.7 Ma. During this interval, Site U1463 records a gradual increase in K wt%, correlated with basin deepening, whereas Site U1464 records an abrupt rise in K wt% at ~6 Ma. We explain this diachronicity by differential basin subsidence. The tectonic interplay with our paleorecords makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact onset of the “Humid Interval,” but we conclude that K wt% and coccolith abundances at Site U1464 indicate that a fluvial deposition system was already established since at least 6 Ma. This age is consistent with data supporting a southward movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone rain belt at ~7 Ma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019PA003780
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Palaeontology


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