Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 32 Issue 01

View Issue TOC
Volume 32, No. 1
Pages 60 - 63

Finding Dry Spells in Ocean Sediments

Stephen J. Gallagher Peter B. deMenocal
Article Abstract

Ocean basins are the ultimate repositories of sediment. Their slow, continuous accumulation over geologic history provides valuable archives that document major climate events and transitions in Earth history. Mineral dust plumes borne by prevailing winds are dominant sources of terrigenous sedimentation off regions such as the Saharan, Arabian, Kalahari, Patagonian, and Australian deserts. Scientific ocean drilling off Africa and Arabia has recorded consistent glacial-stage increases in eolian dust fluxes throughout the Pliocene-Pleistocene, where elevated dust flux values during glacial periods and stadia have been interpreted as reflecting real hydroclimate progression toward greater glacial aridity. International Ocean Discovery Program Expeditions 356, 363, and 369 (conducted in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively) recovered extensive sedimentary climate archives off Australia. Ongoing analyses of these strata reveal a marine record of the onset of continental aridity as Australia migrated northward by 25° over the last 50 million years. These Southern Hemisphere oceanic records will continue to yield key information on global climate evolution, allowing us to understand how deserts and monsoonal systems have evolved through time.


Gallagher, S.J., and P.B. deMenocal. 2019. Finding dry spells in ocean sediments. Oceanography 32(1):60–63, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2019.120.


Christensen, B.A., W. Renema, J. Henderiks, D. De Vleeschouwer, J. Groeneveld, I. Castañeda, L. Reuning, K.A. Bogus, G. Auer, T. Ishiwa, and others. 2017. Indonesian Throughflow drove Australian climate from humid Pliocene to arid Pleistocene. Geophysical Research Letters 44:6,914–6,925, https://doi.org/​10.1002/​2017GL072977.

Clemens, S., and W.J. Prell. 1991. One million year record of summer monsoon winds and continental aridity from the Owen Ridge (Site 722), Northwest Arabian Sea. Pp. 365–388 in Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results, vol. 117. W.J. Prell and N. Niitsuma, eds, Ocean Drilling Program, College Station, TX, https://doi.org/​10.2973/​odp.proc.sr.117.138.1991.

deMenocal, P.B. 1995. Plio-Pleistocene African climate. Science 270(5233):53–59.

De Vleeschouwer, D., G. Auer, R. Smith, K.A. Bogus, B.A. Christensen, J. Groeneveld, B. Patrick, J. Henderiks, I. Castañeda, I., E. O’Brien, and others. 2018. The amplifying effect of Indonesian Throughflow heat transfer on Late Pliocene southern hemisphere climate cooling. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 500:15–27, https://doi.org/​10.1016/j.epsl.2018.07.035.

Fujioka, T., and J. Chappell. 2010. History of Australian aridity: Chronology in the evolution of landscapes. Pp. 121–139 in Australian Landscapes. Geological Society, London, Special Publication, vol. 346, P. Bishop and B. Pillans, eds, https://doi.org/10.1144/SP346.8.

Gallagher, S.J., C.S. Fulthorpe, K.A. Bogus, and Expedition 356 Scientists. 2017. Expedition 356 summary. Pp. 1–43 in Proceedings of the International Ocean Discovery Program, vol. 356, College Station, TX, https://doi.org/10.14379/iodp.proc.356.101.2017.

Gallagher, S.J., M.W. Wallace, P.W. Hoiles, and J.M. Southwood. 2014. Seismic and stratigraphic evidence for reef expansion and onset of aridity on the Northwest Shelf of Aus­tralia during the Pleistocene. Marine and Petroleum Geology 57:470–481, https://doi.org/10.1016/​j.marpetgeo.2014.06.011.

Gentilli, J. 1972. Australian Climate Patterns. Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 285 pp.

Groeneveld, J., J. Hendricks, W. Renema, C.M. McHugh, D. De Vleeschouwer, B.A. Christiansen, C.S. Fulthorpe, L. Reunig, S.J. Gallagher, K.A. Bogus, and others. 2017. Australian shelf sediments reveal shifts in Miocene Southern Hemisphere westerlies. Science Advances 3:e1602567, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1602567.

Herold, N., M. Huber, D.R. Greenwood, R.D. Müller, and M. Seton. 2011. Early to middle Miocene monsoon climate in Australia. Geology 39(1):3–6, https://doi.org/10.1130/G31208.1.

Hesse, P.P., J.W. Magee, and S. van der Kaars. 2004. Late Quaternary climates of the Austra­lian arid zone: A review. Quaternary International 118–119:87–102, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1040-6182(03)00132-0.

Kuechler, R.R., L.M. Dupont, and E. Schefuß. 2018. Hybrid insolation forcing of Pliocene monsoon dynamics in West Africa. Climate of the Past 14(1):73–84, https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-14-73-2018-supplement.

Lisiecki, L.E., and M.E. Raymo. 2005. A Pliocene-Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic δ18O records. Paleoceanography 20(1), https://doi.org/​10.1029/2004PA001071.

Martin, H.A. 2006. Cenozoic climatic change and the development of the arid vegetation in Australia. Journal of Arid Environments 66:533–563, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2006.01.009.

McBride, J.L. 1986. Tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere summer monsoon. Pp. 358–364 in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology, December 1–5, 1986, Wellington, New Zealand.

McGee, D., P.B. deMenocal, G. Winckler, J.-B.W. Stuut, and L.I. Bradtmiller. 2013. The magnitude, timing and abruptness of changes in North African dust deposition over the last 20,000 yr. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 371–372:163–176, https://doi.org/​10.1016/j.epsl.2013.03.054.

McGee, D., W.S. Broecker, and G. Winckler. 2010. Gustiness: The driver of glacial dustiness? Quaternary Science Reviews 29(17–18):2,340–2,350, https://doi.org/​10.1016/​j.quascirev.2010.06.009.

McLaren, S., M.W. Wallace, S.J. Gallagher, B.E. Wagstaff, and A.-M.P. Tosolini. 2014. The development of a climate: An arid continent with wet fringes. Pp. 256–280 in Invasion Biology and Ecosystem Theory: Insights from a Continent in Transformation. H.H.T. Prins and I.J. Gordon, eds, Cambridge University Press.

Mulitza, S., D. Heslo, D. Pittauerova, H.W. Fischer, I. Meyer, J.-B. Stuut, M. Zabe, G. Mollenhauer, J.A. Collins, H. Kuhnert, and M. Schulz. 2010. Increase in African dust flux at the onset of commercial agriculture in the Sahel region. Nature 466:226–228, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09213.

Parkin, D.W., and N.J. Shackleton. 1973. Trade wind and temperature correlations down a deep-sea core off the Saharan coast. Nature 245(5426):455–457, https://doi.org/​10.1038/245455a0.

Prospero, J.M., and P.J. Lamb. 2003. African droughts and dust transport to the Caribbean: Climate change implications. Science 302(5647):1,024–1,027, https://doi.org/​10.1126/science.1089915.

Rose, C., R.P.J. Polissar, J.E. Tierney, T. Filley, and P.B. deMenocal. 2016. Changes in Northeast African hydrology and vegetation associated with Pliocene–Pleistocene sapropel cycles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 371(1698):20150243, https://doi.org/​10.1098/rstb.2015.0243.

Stuut, J.-B.W., F. Temmesfield, and P. De Deckker. 2014. A 550 ka record of aeolian activity near North West Cape, Australia: Inferences from grain-size distributions and bulk chemistry of SE Indian Ocean deep-sea sediments. Quaternary Science Reviews 83:83–94, https://doi.org/10.1016/​j.quascirev.2013.11.003.

Tiedemann, R., M. Sarnthein, and N.J. Shackleton. 1994. Astronomic timescale for the Pliocene Atlantic δ18O and dust flux records of Ocean Drilling Program Site 659. Paleoceanography 9(4):619–638, https://doi.org/​10.1029/​94PA00208.

Tierney, J.E., P.B. deMenocal and P.D. Zander. 2017a. A climatic context for the Out-of-Africa migration. Geology 45(11):1,023–1,026, https://doi.org/10.1130/G39457.1.

Tierney, J.E., F.S.R. Pausata, and P.B. deMenocal. 2017b. Rainfall regimes of the Green Sahara. Science Advances 3(1):e1601503, https://doi.org/​10.1126/sciadv.1601503.

Tjallingii, R., M. Claussen, J.-B.W. Stuut, J. Fohlmeister, A. Jahn, T. Bickert, F. Lamy, and U. Röhl. 2008. Coherent high- and low-latitude control of the Northwest African hydrological balance. Nature Geoscience 1(10):670–675, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo289.

Winckler, G., R.F. Anderson, M.Q. Fleisher, D. McGee, and N. Mahowald. 2008. Covariant glacial-​interglacial dust fluxes in the equatorial Pacific and Antarctica. Science 320(5872):93–96, https://doi.org/​10.1126/science.1150595.

Yu, H., M. Chin, H. Bian, T. Yuan, J.M. Prospero, A.H. Omar, L.A. Remer, D.M. Winker, Y. Yang, Y. Zhang, and Z. Zhang. 2015. Quantification of trans-Atlantic dust transport from seven-year (2007–2013) record of CALIPSO lidar measurements. Remote Sensing of Environment 159:232–249.