Enhanced Late Miocene Chemical Weathering and Altered Precipitation Patterns in the Watersheds of the Bay of Bengal Recorded by Detrital Clay Radiogenic Isotopes

Bretschneider, Lisa; Hathorne, Ed C.; Bolton, Clara T.; Gebregiorgis, Daniel; Giosan, Liviu; Gray, Emmeline; Huang, Huang; Holbourn, Ann; Kuhnt, Wolfgang and Frank, Martin (2021). Enhanced Late Miocene Chemical Weathering and Altered Precipitation Patterns in the Watersheds of the Bay of Bengal Recorded by Detrital Clay Radiogenic Isotopes. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 36(9), article no. e2021PA004252.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2021pa004252

Abstract

The late Miocene was a period of declining CO2 levels and extensive environmental changes, which likely had a large impact on monsoon strength as well as on the weathering and erosion intensity in the South Asian Monsoon domain. To improve our understanding of these feedback systems, detrital clays from the southern Bay of Bengal (International Ocean Discovery Program Site U1443) were analyzed for the radiogenic isotope compositions of Sr, Nd, and Pb to reconstruct changes in sediment provenance and weathering regime related to South Asian Monsoon rainfall from 9 to 5 Ma. The 100 kyr resolution late Miocene to earliest Pliocene record suggests overall low variability in the provenance of clays deposited on the Ninetyeast Ridge. However, at 7.3 Ma, Nd and Pb isotope compositions indicate a switch to an increased relative contribution from the Irrawaddy River (by ∼10%). This shift occurred during the global benthic δ13C decline, and we suggest that global cooling and increasing aridity resulted in an eastward shift of precipitation patterns leading to a more focused erosion of the Indo‐Burman Ranges. Sr isotope compositions were decoupled from Nd and Pb isotope signatures and became more radiogenic between 6 and 5 Ma. Grassland expansion generating thick, easily weatherable soils may have led to an environment supporting intense chemical weathering, which is likely responsible for the elevated detrital clay 87Sr/86Sr ratios during this time. This change in Sr isotope signatures may also have contributed to the late Miocene increase of the global seawater Sr isotope composition.

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