Sea level and climate changes during OIS 5e in the Western Mediterranean
T. Bardajía,⁎, J.L. Goyb, C. Zazoc, C. Hillaire-Marceld, C.J. Dabrioe, A. Caberoc, B. Ghalebd, P.G. Silvaf, J. Lariog
aDepartamento de Geología, Edificio Ciencias, Universidad de Alcalá, 28871-Alcalá de Henares, Spain
bDepartamento de Geología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Salamanca, 37008-Salamanca, Spain
cDepartamento de Geología, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006-Madrid, Spain
dUniversité du Québec à Montréal, GEOTOP-UQAM, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8
eDepartamento de Estratigrafía-UCM and Instituto de Geología Económica-CSIC, Universidad Complutense, 28040-Madrid, Spain
fDepartamento de Geología, Universidad de Salamanca, Escuela Politécnica Superior de Avila, 05003-Avila, Spain
gDepartamento de Ciencias Analíticas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, 28040-Madrid, Spain
A B S T R A C T A R T I C L EI N F O
Accepted 26 March 2008
Available online 28 May 2008
Sea surface conditions
Palaeontological, geomorphological and sedimentological data supported by isotopic dating on Oxygen
Isotopic Stage (OIS) 5e deposits from the Spanish Mediterranean coast, are interpreted with the aim of
reconstructing climatic instability in the Northern Hemisphere. Data point to marked climatic instability
during the Last Interglacial (OIS 5e), with a change in meteorological conditions and, consequently, in the
sedimentary environment. The oolitic facies generated during the first part of OIS 5e (ca. 135 kyr) shift into
reddish conglomeratic facies during the second part (ca. 117 kyr). Sea surface Temperature (SST) and salinity
are interpreted mainly on the basis of warm Senegalese fauna, which show chronological and spatial
differential distribution throughout the Western Mediterranean. Present hydrological and meteorological
conditions are used also as modern analogues to reconstruct climatic variability throughout the Last
Interglacial, and this variability is interpreted within the wider framework of the North Atlantic record. All
the available data indicate an increase in storminess induced by an increase in the influence of north-
westerlies, a slight drop of SST in the northern Western Mediterranean, and an important change in
meteorological conditions at the end of OIS 5e (117 kyr). These changes correlate well with the decrease in
summer insolation and with the climatic instability recorded in North Atlantic high latitudes.
© 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1987; Thompson and Goldstein, 2006) brackets the OIS 5 between ca.
130 (128–127) and 75 kyr, although data from Hawaii and Bermuda
suggest an older age for the onset of the Last Interglacial period at ca.
136 kyr (Muhs et al., 2002). Nor is the timing of OIS 5e termination
entirely settled, with ages of 116 to 113 kyr having been suggested as
the end of this interglacial period (Stirling et al., 1998; Muhs et al.,
According tohigh resolution ice,marineandterrestrial records,OIS
5 in the Northern Hemisphere exhibits a marked climate instability, as
Kukla et al., 2002; McManus et al., 2002; Shackleton et al., 2002; Pérez
Folgado et al., 2004; CAPE — Last Interglacial, Project Members, 2006).
Average summer insolation throughout the Northern Hemisphere
(Bergerand Loutre,1991) during the peak of the Last Interglacial (130–
127 kyr) was about 11% above that of the present with a significant
latitudinal gradient, as indicated by a summer temperature anomaly
4–5° above present over the Arctic Ocean, and 0–2 °C above present in
mid- and low latitudes (CAPE — Last Interglacial, Project Members,
2006). However, the final part of this Interglacial is characterized by
relatively low summer insolation values.
Northern hemisphere data sets (GRIP Members, 1993; Sanchez-
Goñi et al., 1999; Kukla et al., 2002; Shackleton et al., 2002) indicate
that after the warmest peak of the OIS 5e (ca. 128 ka), the climate
underwent a progressive deterioration, firstly during the latter part of
OIS 5e which registered generalized cooling prior to the onset of OIS
5d, and during the following interglacial substages (OIS 5c and OIS 5a).
IntheNordicseas, theonsetofOIS5ewascharacterizedbya strong
east–west temperature gradient (Fronval and Jansen,1997; McManus
et al., 2002), reduced during the warmest interval (ca. 126 kyr) and
reaching a major sea surface temperature (SST) drop by about 116 kyr
(Knudsen et al., 2002). Data from mid- and high-latitude deep-sea
cores from the North Atlantic Ocean (McManus et al., 2002) show that
as ice sheets began to grow near the onset of OIS 5d, the region stayed
generally warm, constituting an ideal moisture source and reinvigor-
ating thermohaline circulation. These features were probably the
causes of the anomalous final partof OIS5e, withgrowingice sheetsin
higher latitudes and still-warm waters and climatic instability in mid-
latitudes. At the end of OIS 5e, a millennial-scale cooling event (C25)
Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
⁎ Corresponding author. Fax: +34 91 885 5090.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (T. Bardají).
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was significant in northern and North-western Atlantic latitudes as
well as in the Mediterranean (Martrat et al., 2004), although this was
less evident in Europe (McManus et al., 2002). However, in tropical
settings there is planktonic δ18O evidence of a lowering in SST (cooling
event C26) not associated to any IRD (Ice Rafted Debris) peak, marking
the end of the warmest peak of OIS 5e (Lehman et al., 2002).
In the Alboran Sea, located on the western margin of the
Mediterranean Basin and connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the
al., 2004) show that OIS 5e lasted between ca. 130 kyr and 117 kyr,
with a definitive cooling trend starting at 119 kyr. Analyses of Organic
Rich Layers (ORL) suggest an increase in rainfall or runoff during
warmer substages (i.e. OIS 5e, 5c and 5a) which was responsible for a
decrease in sea surface salinity. This would in turn have enhanced
water stratification, and, together with high sea surface productivity,
would explain the high organic-matter content of these layers.
The sea-level highstands related to these climatic changes remain
controversial, particularly with regard to their number and elevation.
of Bermuda and the Bahamas are not always in agreement. Some
authors point to a single prolonged highstand, with a palaeosea-level
located at +5 m above present sea level (a.p.s.l.) between ca. 130 and
highstandswitha prolonged palaeosea-levelat +2.5m anda rapid rise
up to +6 m a.p.s.l. with ages of ca. 132–125 kyr and 118 kyr, with an
intervening lowstand (−3 m) at ca. 125 kyr (Newmann and Hearty,
1996; Hearty and Newmann, 2001; Hearty, 2002). In the stable
margins of Australia, data support one prolonged sea-level highstand
(ca. 128–110 kyr) at +3 m a.p.s.l. in Western Australia (Stirling et al.,
1998); and at +2 m in Southern Australia (Murray-Wallace, 2002).
In contrast, data from uplifted coasts suggest two highstands at ca.
128–120 kyr in Barbados, located at +2 and 0 m a.p.s.l. respectively
(Schellmann and Radtke, 2004) and between ca. 130 and 118 kyr in
Haití, at +5 m and +2 m a.p.s.l. respectively (Dumas et al., 2006). In the
Huon Peninsula (New Guinea), highstands have been reported at
134 kyr and 118 kyr (Stein et al.,1993). Recent sea-level analyses from
Calabria, Italy, (Dumas et al., 2005) suggest a very different scenario.
According to these authors, high tectonic uplift rates allowed an
extremely detailed record of sea-level variations during the Last
Interglacial, showing at least eleven minor oscillations during OIS 5e
and four more during OIS 5c/5a. The chronology of these highstands
points to a higher amplitude sea-level rise at 128 kyr, 122 kyr and
116 kyr during OIS 5e, and at 105 kyr and 84 kyr during OIS 5c/5a.
Once the tectonic trend is accounted for and subtracted, the
reported inconsistencies concerning palaeosea-level elevation, the
number of highstands and their chronology, are partially explainable
in terms of the distance from earlier ice sheets; that is, in terms of the
relationship between glacio- and hydro-isostatic effects in each of the
settings. Data from the far field sites (Australia, Papua New Guinea)
should be more accurate due to the less intense post-glacial isostatic
rebound, while in the intermediate or near fields (Bermuda and
Caribbean islands) glacio-isostatic unloading processes may have
assumed much greater importance.
Faced with the diversity of sea-level highstand data, the Mediterra-
nean Sea becomes a key site for understanding the connection between
high and mid-latitude climatic changes in the Northern Hemisphere, as
well as ocean–atmosphere interactions and their climatic implications
in the number and height of sea-level highstands in the Western
a precise sea-level curve forthis basinwith absolute heights,otherkinds
of data can be used as proxies for stating the number of highstands —
another controversial and much-debated question. In this paper we
attempt to synthesize palaeontological, sedimentological and geomor-
phological data of OIS 5 deposits from a number of Western
Mediterranean countries, in order to reconstruct the palaeoenviron-
mental changeswhich occurred in this basin duringtheLastInterglacial,
as well as the impact of North Atlantic climate variability on the
oceanographic and meteorological conditions of the Western Mediter-
2. Present physiographical framework and location
coast of Spain, as well as in the Balearic Islands (Fig. 1), presenting
important oceanographic differences driven by the general circulation
in the Western Mediterranean, which also determines a variety of
present temperature and salinity conditions.
2.1. Western Mediterranean circulation
The Gibraltar Strait is characterized by a water exchange of
Superficial Atlantic Water, flowing towards the east, and a westward
outflow of Western Mediterranean Deep Water. As Atlantic water
enters into the Alboran Sea, it describes a quasi-permanent antic-
yclonic gyre in the West and a more variable circuit in the east (Fig.1).
As Atlantic Waterflowsintothe Mediterranean Sea, it forms a 100–
200 m-thick layer of surface water, called Modified Atlantic Water
(MAW), (Millot, 1999), or Mediterranean Waters (MWs), (Tauppier-
Letage and Millot, 2004; Millot and Tauppier-Letage, 2005).
Modern circulation in the Western Mediterranean Basin (Fig. 1),
has been extensively reviewed by Millot (1999) and Millot and
Tauppier-Letage (2005). The general circulation pattern involves an
important thermohaline component, in a counter-clockwise sense,
forced by the Coriolis Effect. After the above-mentioned eastern
Alboran anticyclonic gyre, the MAW progress towards the east, along
the Algerian slope to the Sardinia Strait, (Algerian Current), describing
a series of clockwise coastal eddies.
As this current reaches the Sicily Channel, it bifurcates into two
branches. Part of the current moves towards the Eastern Mediterranean
Basin, sometimes spreading over the whole Sicily Channel and other
times remaining close to the Tunisian coast. The other branch flows
the Tyrrhenian Sea, and continuing along the continental slope around
the Western Mediterranean Northern Current (Fig.1).
This Northern Current, together with the Alboran anticyclonic
gyres, are the main hydrographical features affecting Spanish
Mediterranean coast, not only at present but probably during the
Last Interglacial as well. North-westerly winds usually affect the Gulf
of Lyon, inducing relatively cool surface waters. The Balearic Sea,
protected by the Pyrenees, is less windy and consequently contains
warmer surface waters, defining the North Balearic Front. A higher
influence of north-westerlies during cold seasons in the Gulf of Lyon,
forces the North Balearic thermal front towards the Balearics, so that
the water becomes the warmest found anywhere in the Western
Mediterranean (Millot, 1999). Part of the Northern Current continues
southwards through the Ibiza Channel, but with decreasing energy,
being deflected towards the Algerian Basin where it meets, between
the Capes of Gata and San Antonio, the more energetic flow of more
In summary, the north-eastern peninsular coasts are affected
mainly by the cooler superficial Northern Current that emanates from
the Gulf of Lyon and moves southwards until it encounters the more
recent MAW to the south of the Ibiza Channel. Conversely, southern
peninsular coasts are affected mainly by the anticyclonic gyres
generated by recent MAW flowing into the Alboran Sea. Meanwhile,
the Balearic Islands are affected by the gyres of superficial northern
currents that curl around the islands, and by the position of the
thermal North Balearic Front. Taking all these features into account,
we can assume a significant salinity and temperature gradient
between Gibraltar and northern Mediterranean Peninsular coasts.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
2.2. Present sea surface conditions
As described above, modern circulation in the Western Mediterra-
nean directly affects sea surface characteristics (temperature and
salinity) in its various basins and seas. Seasonal atmospheric condi-
tions also influence the distribution and gradient of these parameters.
The increased influence of north-westerly winds in the northern
part of the Western Mediterranean during cold seasons produces a
significant cooling of surface waters to temperatures b12.4 °C, with
salinities of ca. 38.3 and consequently higher densities, provoking a
deepening of this so-called Winter Intermediate Water (WIW).
However, Western Mediterranean Deep Water (WMDW) constitutes
the deepest (below 1000 m deep) and densest of Mediterranean
waters (ca.12.8 °C andsalinity 38.4). Formed in the Gulf of Lyonduring
winter, WMDW flows out of the Mediterranean Sea through the
Gibraltar Strait, where it rises in depth from ca. 2000 m to ca. 300 m.
In brief, Atlantic Water presents at Gibraltara mean temperatureof
ca.15–16 °C and salinity of ca. 36–37, and although the Mediterranean
waters are seasonallyeither warmed (up to20–28 °C) orcooled (down
toca.13 °C),overall its salinityincreases (upto 38–39)andthus alsoits
density, partially due to the negative hydrological budget of this basin
(Millot and Tauppier-Letage, 2005).
2.3. Present meteorological conditions
Both the direction of prevailing winds and the wind stress
conditions affecting these settings are highly variable. The Western
Mediterranean is affected mainly by two kinds of winds, north-
westerlies (from NW Europe) and south-westerlies (from Africa), both
acting within a seasonal framework. Strong north-westerlies sweep
across the Iberian Peninsula during cold seasons, blowing over the
Western Mediterranean in a SE–E direction (Fig. 2). In summer,
weaker north-westerlies come through the Gulf of Lyon, but rotate
around the Balearic Islands and the Sicily Strait towards the west, then
generate easterly winds on the Spanish Mediterranean littoral, very
close to the ocean–air interface (0–10 m high). The influence of winds
from the SW is also reported as having been very important in the
Southern Mediterranean (Magri and Parra, 2002; Moreno et al., 2002),
especially during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene cold events, with
enhanced Sahara dust and pollen transport being recorded. However,
these winds are higher in altitude than those capable of having a
noticeable influence on wave regimen.
The strongest storms are also related to various meteorological
features. Mediterranean Peninsularcoasts are affected bylate summer
or autumn Mediterranean or North African low-pressure cells, linked
to significant flooding events and a consequent increase of fluvial
discharge into the littoral environment. The Balearic Islands present a
marked influence of north-westerlies from the Gulf of Lyon, which
generate persistent rain discharges and storm wave surges.
Torrential rainfall in Spain has been related to heated sea surface
waters in the Mediterranean during early autumn months, which act
as a moisture source, as well as to high-pressure anticyclones centred
in Western Europe, which force the flow of colder surface air over the
warmer sea (Millán et al., 1995; Pastor et al., 2001).
3. OIS 5 on Spanish Mediterranean coasts
Numerous works have been done in relation to the OIS 5 on Spanish
Mediterranean coasts. Such studies have relied on U-series measure-
ments, as well as geomorphological, morphosedimentaryand palaeonto-
logical analyses, to define the number and timing of the Last Interglacial
highstands in Spain (Bernat et al.,1982; Brückner,1986; Goy et al.,1986;
Hillaire-Marcel et al.,1986; Heartyet al.,1986; Hearty,1987; Causse et al.,
1993; Goy et al.,1993; Zazo et al.,1993, 2003; Goy et al., 2006). Whereas
Fig. 1. Scheme of modern circulation in Western Mediterranean (from Millot,1999), with location of studied areas. NBF: North Balearic Front; G.S.: Gibraltar Strait; S.S.: Sicily Strait; M.S.:
Messina Strait, Ch.I.: Ibiza Channel. In Balearic Islands Ib.: Ibiza, Ma: Mallorca; Mi: Minorca.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
the palaeontological record assists in the reconstruction of former sea
surface conditions (temperature and salinity), sedimentary facies can be
regimen) characteristics of earlier coastal settings.
3.1. Palaeontological record
The palaeontological record from OIS 5 can be used as a very
precise tool for the reconstruction of sea surface conditions, mainly
regarding temperature range, although salinity can also be inferred.
recorded in Mediterranean settings by the presence of warm Senegalese
superficial marine waters (Fig. 3). The main species representing this
warm fauna are:Cardita senegalensis,Barbatia plicata,Conus testudinarius,
Cantharus viverratus, Hyotissa hyotis, Cymathium dolarium, Patella safiana,
is neither continuous nor synchronous throughout the Mediterranean,
nor along the Mediterranean Spanish coast, nor even along the southern
Iberian Peninsula (Atlantic vs. Mediterranean littoral), with some
Senegalese species, especially S. bubonius, being absent from the Atlantic
settings. Consequently, from this differential distribution, we can attempt
The entry of S. bubonius into the Mediterranean is controversial,
5e on central and eastern Mediterranean coasts. Nevertheless, in Spain,
this particular species has been found as early as OIS 9 or OIS 11 in the
(Hillaire-Marcel et al.,1986; Goyet al.,1986; Zazo et al., 2003; Goyet al.,
2006), with a maximum occurrence during OIS 5e. Moreover, the
disappearance of this warm fauna is not coeval in the areas studied. On
the Peninsular coasts examined, S. bubonius was present during the
entire OIS 5, while in the Balearics it disappeared at the end of OIS 5e,
et al.,1996; Zazo et al., 2003).
Differing distributions and abundances are also observed along the
peninsular coast from Gibraltar to France, with the maximum number
of specimens in OIS 5e units always occurring on the littoral fringe
from Almería to Alicante (Fig. 4).
Fig. 2. Wind stress for winter (A) and summer (B) seasons (data for 1986–1992 period, based on monthly values derived from averaging daily means of the wind stress at 10 m above
the air–sea interface (from Drakopoulos and Lascaratos, 1999).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
This particular behaviour of warm Senegalese fauna, characterized
by highly variable spatial and temporal distributions, can be used as a
tool for reconstructing sea surface conditions and climatic variability
throughout the Last Interglacial in the Western Mediterranean.
3.2. Sedimentary facies
Along Mediterranean Peninsular coasts, the OIS 5 coastal deposits
are characterized by different sedimentary facies patterns that can
help in the determination of climatic or environmental changes,
especially in cases where particularfacies requirespecific hydrological
or meteorological conditions for their development.
3.2.1. Oolitic facies
The first part of the OIS 5e is recorded on the peninsular coasts,
between Almería and Alicante (Fig. 4), by the development of oolitic
dunes and beaches, the later containing S. bubonius. However, these
facies are not represented in the OIS 5e beaches along the Atlantic
coasts of southern Iberia, where coarse calcarenites and siliciclastic
deposits are recorded.
Oolites are small (0.25–2 mm) spherical grains of calcium
carbonate, formed by concentric lamellae of fine aragonite needles
that canpresenteither tangential or radial orientation. Although ooids
occur in different sedimentary environments, tangentially oriented
oolites have been reported generally to form under high-energy,
normal marine conditions, whereas radial ooids have been reported to
occur in “protected” coastal environments (Loreau and Purser, 1973).
Requirements for oolite formation are (a) a shallow, flat and wide
coastal shelf; (b) watersupersaturated with CaCO3, probablyrelated to
warming and evaporation on the coastal shelf; (c) persistent tidal or
wind-wave agitation of the grains, which facilitates first the loss of
CO2from the system and, second, the precipitation of CaCO3around
the grains, and (d) continuous replacement of the calcium carbonate
(Lloyd et al., 1987; Wanless and Tedesco, 1993). The most extensively
studied modern oolites are from the Bahamian archipelago, where
Wanless and Tedesco (1993), compared the effects of tidal vs. wind-
wave agitation in the type of ooids formed, and also in the
sedimentary body developed. Oolite type is related to frequency of
agitation, whereby regular concentric ooids, such as those from Last
Interglacial deposits in the Mediterranean, occur where there is
almost continuous bottom agitation, with quiet periods not exceeding
a few weeks. Irregular oolites occur where bottom agitation is not so
continuous, presenting longer periods (weeks to months) of bottom
stability. Regarding the sedimentary bodies, wave-generated currents
may organize ooids into elongated subtidal ridges, while storm waves
and wind may organize them into beach ridges and dunes adjacent to
As for sea level, in certain sites of Australia, where no modern ooid
deposition occurs, oolite formation has been related to positive sea-
level oscillation; that is, to the post-glacial sea-level rise (Hearty et al.,
2006), or to slowed sea-level rise (Yokoyama et al., 2006), just prior to
In the Mediterranean Basin, oolites are currently forming along the
coasts of NE Africa, between the Gulf of Gabes (southern Tunisia) and
the Nile Delta (Egypt) (Lucas, 1955). Here, conditions for oolite
development are related to a high-energy flat and shallow shelf (1 m
deepening in 200 m). Along the Egyptian coast, oolites develop close
to the shoreline at shallow depths, where insolation promotes
evaporation and hence carbonate precipitation, and where strong
eastern and north-eastern winds promote enough wave agitation to
allow oolite formation. The Gulf of Gabes, in southern Tunisia, is the
only Mediterranean location where tides can reach noticeable ranges,
with reported spring tides of up to 2.5 m. Here, near Djerba Island, NE
and E winds as well as tidal currents supply the energy needed for
oolite development. Oolitic sands formwide rounded patches, moving
over sea grass prairies, which have been described by Lucas (1955) as
submarine dunes rounded by the alternating ebb and flow of tidal
currents twice a day.
Modern Mediterranean oolites are similar to those found in OIS 5e
deposits on Iberian Peninsular coasts: tangentially oriented aragonite
lamellae, very regular in shape and with a thick oolitic envelope in
relation to nucleus size. However, present tidal range on the
Mediterranean Spanish coast is negligible, and the absence of tidal
sedimentary structures does not allow an interpretation of a different
tidal range during the Last Interglacial.
Similar characteristics are also reported for Tunisian OIS 5e oolites
(Lucas,1955), although with a different nuclei nature, arrangement and
shape, which the author relates to inland environmental differences
Fig. 3. Distribution of living and fossil Senegalese fauna (from Zazo et al., inpress). White shell: Strombus bubonius fossil; White shell in greycircle: living S. bubonius; White dot: fossil
Senegalese fauna; Black dot: living Senegalese fauna; Light-blue continuous line: permanent upwelling; Light-blue dashed line: seasonal upwelling; Blue arrows: Present surface
currents. References for SST (⁎) and SSS (⁎⁎): (a) NOAA-WOA, 2001; (b) Pelegrí et al., 2005; (c) Vargas et al., 2003; (d) Le Loeuff and Von Cosel,1998 : SSTand SSS stand for Sea Surface
Temperature and Sea Surface Salinity, respectively.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
Fig. 4. A: Location of OIS 5e sites along the Mediterranean coasts of Iberian Peninsula; B: Main palaeontological, geomorphological and sedimentological features of OIS 5e deposits
(summarized from Zazo et al., 1981; Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1986; Goy et al., 1993; Zazo et al., 1993; Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1996; Goy et al., 1997; Zazo et al., 2003; Goy et al., 2006).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
between the Last Interglacial and present-day conditions in Tunisia.
Contrasting with the steady oceanographic conditions needed for
units are related to significant runoff under humid climatic conditions,
while the rounded and well-sorted aeolian nuclei observed in present
oolites point to more persistent winds and dune formation. Along the
south-eastern Spanish coast, oolitic facies from OIS 5e, usually occur as
dune–beach ridge systems (Fig. 5A) reflecting an increase in wind
activity, which in many cases contrasts with the gravel beach deposits
that characterized earlier Interglacials (Bardají et al., 1987; Zazo et al.,
1998, 2003). However, these oolitic beaches are usually located below
present sea level, which can be interpreted as having been formed
during the sea-level rise close to the first OIS 5e highstand. Oolitic
foreshore facies outcrop in only two locations (La Marina, Alicante; and
El Playazo, Almería), and there is no sedimentological evidence of a
different-from-present tidal regimen. Later siliciclastic dunes replace
conditions. The highstand associated to these siliciclastic dunes usually
to the earlier oolitic unit.
3.2.2. Reddish conglomerate facies
The final part of OIS 5e and the subsequent substages (OIS 5c and
5a), are characterized by an important change in sedimentary style,
representing the global climatic deterioration that followed the peak
of the Last Interglacial. This climatic change is evidenced by an
increase in depositional energy manifested by coarser sedimentary
units and an increase in red silty–clayey matrix (Fig. 5B). These
reddish deposits are represented by heterometric, strongly cemented,
rounded conglomerate embedded in a red silty–clayey matrix, with
abundant specimens of S. bubonius. These units are usually located
close to the mouth of ephemeral streams (El Cocón, Murcia; Guardias
Viejas, Almería; Los Arenales del Sol, Alicante), suggesting an increase
in runoff that mobilized the previously weathered superficial inland
deposits and red soils.
In other locations, such as the island of Mallorca (Campo de Tiro
section, Fig. 6) this environmental change is accompanied by an
increase in the grain size of littoral deposits, related to higher wave
energy and greater storminess (Hearty et al., 1986; Zazo et al., 2003).
4. The timing of OIS 5 in Spanish Mediterranean settings
4.1. Peninsular coasts
There are many papers devoted to the study of the Last Interglacial
on the Iberian Peninsula, both on its southern Atlantic coasts and in
Mediterranean settings (Stearns and Thurber, 1965; Brückner, 1986;
Goy et al., 1986; Hearty et al., 1986; Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1986; Goy
et al.,1993; Zazo et al.,1993; Hillaire-Marcel et al.,1996; McLaren and
Rowe,1996; Zazo et al., 2003; Goyet al., 2006, etc). Correlating various
locations has been made possible by extensively detailed geomor-
phological mapping and facies analyses, aided by dating techniques
and palaeontological information. In summary (Fig. 4), and despite the
tectonic influence, what seems clear is that there were three
highstands of sea level in most of the areas during OIS 5e (130–
117 kyr), and one or two further highstands near the end of OIS 5 (i.e.
OIS 5c/5a), when sea level in the Mediterranean is inferred to have
risen once or twice to present values (Zazo et al., 2003). This is in
contrast to what has been generally assumed concerning a sea level
below thepresent for OIS5c (ca.100 kyr) andbeloworclose topresent
for OIS 5a (ca. 100 kyr), (Chapell et al., 1996; Roy and Boyd, 1996;
Pillans et al., 1998; Hearty and Kauffman, 2000).
Fig. 5. A.1) Oolitic dune belt from OIS 5e (Cope Basin, Murcia); A.2) Detail of Strombus bubonius-bearing oolitic beach facies (La Marina, Alicante; from Goyet al., 2006); B.1) Staircased
reddish marine deposits from the final part of OIS 5e (Aguilas, Murcia); B.2) Detail of the reddish facies with Strombus bubonius (for location see Fig. 4A).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
The geomorphological relationship between coastal OIS 5e units
points to a first stillstand (oolitic) not too far from present sea level or
even lower, followed by a sea-level rise (onlapping siliciclastic unit)
that rose to higher than present altitude, and then a rapid drop of sea
level (incised reddish unit) that remained close to present level. In
some locations there is evidence of a sea-level fall between the two
first units, marked by the development of terrestrial deposits.
4.2. The Balearic Islands
The most extensive record of Middle and Late Pleistocene coastal
deposits is found on the island of Mallorca (Heartyet al.,1986; Cuerda,
1989; Goy et al., 1997; Zazo et al., 2003), where the Campo de Tiro
Section (Fig. 6) is considered to be the type locality for Tyrrhenian (i.e.
S. bubonius-bearing) marine deposits in the Balearics.
Since the first works of Butzer and Cuerda (1962) and Cuerda (e.g.
1989), many subsequent papers have examined aspects of the
chronology, geomorphological disposition, and sea-level interpreta-
tion of these deposits (Stearns and Thurber, 1965,1967; Hearty,1987;
Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1996; Goy et al., 1997; Zazo et al., 2003).
Summarizing all the available data, we concluded that this type
section presents the most detailed OIS 5 sea-level sequence on the
Mediterranean coast, recording threehighstands during OIS 5e (one at
135 kyr, and two at 117 kyr). These highstands are separated firstly by
lowstand reddish terrestrial facies (between Units 1 and 2, Fig. 6) and
erosion resulting in the stepping of Unit 3. A third pre-Holocene
highstand (Unit 4, ca. 100 kyr) has been attributed to OIS 5c or 5a
(Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1996; Zazo et al., 2003). This attribution is in
agreement with data from phreatic overgrowths in speleothemes
(Vesica et al., 2000; Ginés et al., 2001; Fornós et al., 2002) obtained in
littoral caves in eastern Mallorca. In these caves, at least two
highstands are found during OIS 5e (one at ca. 130 kyr, and at ca.
116 kyr) and two more above present sea level (2–3 m), dated at ca.
105 and ca. 85 kyr and representing OIS 5c and 5a respectively (Fig. 7).
Recently, Tuccimei et al. (2006) have published a new and more
complete curve of sea-level change in Mallorca Island where three
highstands have been recognised corresponding to OIS 5e (138–
128.5 kyr and 122–110 kyr) and OIS 5a (84–82 kyr).
However, synthesized results of U-series analyses (TIMS), palaeon-
tological and morphosedimentary units from Campo de Tiro exposed
beach deposits, point to the occurrence of just four highstands: three
duringOIS5e, at 135kyr(Unit1) andat 117 kyr(Units2 and3),andthe
fourth one at ca. 100 kyr (Unit 4) (Hillaire-Marcel et al., 1996; Zazo
et al., 2003). Palaeontological content (Cuerda, 1989) shows a
Senegalese assemblage, including S. bubonius in Units 1 and 2,
which partially disappears in Unit 3, particularly S. bubonius,
becoming similar to that of the present day, but with B. plicata in
Unit 4. Sedimentology and geomorphological disposition of Units 1 to
3 indicate a sea-level drop and an increase in wave energy and/or
storminess at the end of OIS 5e.
In summary, the available data suggest high SST in the Balearic
Islands as early as OIS 9 or 11, which occurred again during the first
Fig. 6. Campo de Tiro Section (Mallorca, Balearic Islands); A: Panoramic view of the outcrop; B: Schematised section of Last Interglacial marine units (from Goy et al., 2005; for
location see Fig. 4A).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
part of OIS 5e (135 kyr), although no data from OIS 7 are currently
available. The final partof OIS 5e (117 kyr) is characterized bya sudden
decrease in SST, a drop in sea level, and an increase in storminess.
From that time on, SST never warmed sufficiently to allow the survival
of S. bubonius. Also notable is the absence of oolitic facies on the
island, indicating that not all of the needed requirements for oolite
formation were attained on these coasts.
5. The record of OIS 5 in other Western Mediterranean countries
In order to better understand the physiographical, hydrographical
and climatic conditions in the Western Mediterranean during the Last
Interglacial, it is necessary to document the record of OIS 5 in the
neighbouring countries of Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and France (Fig. 8).
The record of OIS 5 in Morocco has been mostly reported for the
Atlantic littoral, where most of the type sections for the marine
Quaternary of North Africa are located (e.g. Lecointre, 1952; Biberson,
1958; Stearns and Thurber, 1965; Texier et al., 1986, 1994; Alouane,
2001; Occhietti et al., 2002). The sea-level record along the Atlantic
littoral of Morocco presents just one highstand during OIS 5, reported
on the basis of stratigraphic analyses, aminoacid racemization and Th/
U dating, and ascribed to the peak of OIS 5e (128 kyr). At some
locations, this level appears to be overlain by a reddish terrestrial
deposit. As occurs along the Spanish littoral, the Moroccan record is
also characterized by the presence of warm Senegalese fauna in
deposits from OIS 5, with S. bubonius present in the Mediterranean
sections and absent from the Atlantic coasts.
Along the Mediterranean coasts, a few outcrops of late Quaternary
marine deposits are reported (Angelier et al., 1976; Brückner, 1986;
Hearty et al., 1986; Alouane, 2001). From Tetouan to Al Hoceima
(Fig. 8), one level pertaining to the peak (130 kyr) of the Last
Interglacial hasbeenreported,anda secondoneattributedtoOIS5cor
5a. However, the various authors who have studied these sections
have reported neither S. bubonius nor oolitic facies, which probably
Fig. 7. Simplified eustatic curve for the Last Interglacial on Mallorca (Balearic Islands),
deduced from Th/U dating on phreatic speleothems in coastal caves (after Ginés et al.,
2001); (m.a.s.l.: metres above sea level).
Fig. 8. Summary of OIS 5 features in Western Mediterranean countries (data from Spanish littoral in Fig. 4).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
reflects sea surface conditions different from those characterizing the
Spanish coasts at similar latitudes.
The first reported S. bubonius-bearing marine deposits (Alouane,
2001) appear near Saïdia, where a beach level located at +5–10 m was
the peak of OIS 5e. This same level is also recognised in the Beni Saïd
area, at a similar height and dated at ca.130 kyr (Brückner,1986).
Pleistocene marine formations in Tunisia were first described by
Paskoff and Sanlaville (1976,1980), who identified three stratigraphic
marine formations along the eastern coast: Douira, Rejiche (separated
by an intervening paleosoil) and the more recent Chebba Formation,
the two last units bearing S. bubonius (Fig. 9). The older S. bubonius-
bearing marine unit exhibits a bioclastic and oolite beach–dune
regressive sequence. A higher-energyconglomeratic deposit, erosively
encased within the earlier unit, composes the second S. bubonius-
Mahmoudi (1987) and Mahmoudi et al. (1987a) established a new
stratigraphic definition of these units, combining the two newer
formations (former upper Rejiche and Chebba Fts.) into just one
characterized by the presence of S. bubonius, but with significant
intraformational erosive contact and a marked change in depositional
style, from oolitic to conglomeratic (Fig. 9).
The climatic reconstruction made by Mahmoudi et al. (1987b) for
this Last Interglacial unit implies warmer SST than present and
significant wind action during the deposition of the oolitic S.
bubonius-bearing unit, with episodic storms indicated by the boulder
beaches eroded into this oolitic unit. Temperature determinations
made by these authors on a specimen of S. bubonius from the oolitic
unit, show a value 2–4 °C higher than present in these littorals.
Recent research on raised Pleistocene marine deposits in SE
Tunisia (Jedoui et al., 2002, 2003), based on U-series dating of Ostrea
shells, suggests the possibility of two highstands of sea level during
the Last Interglacial (Fig. 9). The first (147–140 kyr) is recorded by a
siliciclastic unit without S. bubonius, and the second (110–100 kyr)
characterized by oolitic facies and abundant S. bubonius shells.
The sites where S. bubonius-bearing beach deposits were first
described in the Mediterranean lie along Italian coastlines, more
precisely in Sardinia. The term Tyrrhenian was coined (Gignoux, 1911;
Issel,1914) to name these fossiliferous beds that occurred between the
Sicilian and the Holocene. Subsequently, Bonifay and Mars (1959),
subdivided it into three different stages: Paleotyrrhenian (with banal
fauna), Eutyrrhenian (with S. bubonius) and Neotyrrhenian (with
Senegalese fauna but no S. bubonius). Therefore, the presence of this
a general consensus in associating the Eutyrrhenian with OIS 5e,
assuming the absence of S. bubonius in levels other than that of OIS 5e.
However, BonadonnaandBigazzi(1970)reported ages of177±30; 127±
phases, in the Cerveteri area (Central Italy).
A recent compendium on the Last Interglacial sea-level highstand
in Italy (Ferranti et al., 2006), includes an extensive database of all
reported marine deposits from the OIS 5e. Although the authors
assume that the presence of S. bubonius is exclusive to the OIS 5e, with
a unique highstand at ca. 125 kyr average, data from earlier inves-
tigations suggest the occurrence of multiple highstands and less strict
The northernmost record of S. bubonius is reported in Liguria
(Federici and Pappalardo, 2006) where Stearns and Thurber (1967)
and De Lumley (1969) mentioned the occurrence of different levels
with S. bubonius, dated at 170±35, 160±34, 95±5 and 60±5 kyr. In
Lazio, in the area of Cerveteri, Hearty and Dai Pra (1987) report the
occurrence of at least three different beaches with S. bubonius at
different heights. In Calabria (Dumas et al., 2005), S. bubonius has been
Fig. 9. Last Interglacial sedimentary units in Tunisia, and chronological interpretation according to various authors.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
reported as occurring at 116 and 101 kyr. Mauz (1999) also reports TL-
ages of S. bubonius-bearing marine layers from Tuscany, clustered
around ca. 100 kyr and ca. 116 kyr.
In summary, the published data suggest that S. bubonius on the
Italian coasts seems not to be exclusive to the peak of OIS 5e, but
appears before (160–180 kyr) and remains afterwards (116 kyr, 90 kyr,
perhaps 60 kyr?). This is very similar to the situation on the Iberian
Peninsula. The same data also support the occurrence of at least two
different highstands during OIS 5e. Sedimentological descriptions of S.
bubonius-bearing deposits do not mention oolitic facies, and therefore
it should be inferred that the required conditions for oolitic formation
did not exist along Italian coastlines.
6. Interpretation and discussion
Palaeontological, sedimentological and geomorphological data of
OIS 5e on the Spanish littoral (Fig. 10) support the statement of more
than one sea-level highstand, while there is not a general consensus
about the number and duration of highstands in the other Western
Mediterranean countries. Different sea surface and meteorological
conditions could be related to a different Western Mediterranean
response to changing global climate throughout this particular stage.
However, tectonic activity in all of the coastal settings studied does
not allow absolute sea-level heights during all these highstands to be
formulated, and we can only deduce relative changes.
6.1. Sea-level record
OIS 5 presents four or five sea-level highstands along the studied
Spanish littoral depending on the location (Zazo et al., 2003). On
Mallorca (Balearic Islands) three highstands have been reported for
OIS 5e (one at 135 kyr, and two around 117 kyr), and one more for OIS
5c/5a (at ca.100 kyr), all of them in the same section, (Hillaire-Marcel
et al., 1996). The geomorphological distribution of these units shows
that after the first highstand (135 kyr) sea level suffered a relative fall,
as evidenced by the deposition of reddish terrestrial deposits. The
overlapping of the second highstand points to a higher sea level at
117 kyr, but with a rapid and sudden fall marked by the staircasement
of the third highstand, also at 117 kyr.
Thehighstand record is greateralongthePeninsularcoast,whereup
to three highstands have been reported for OIS 5e in Alicante (La
Marina),three in Almería and atleast twoin Murcia.As forsea level, the
geomorphologic distribution of the sedimentary units also suggests a
the deposition of oolitic units, and also a sudden drop at the end of
OIS 5e, evidenced by the incised development of the reddish unit.
and Moraira (Fumanal et al., 1993), where an OIS 5e oolitic beach has
been recovered in a core drill at −15–6 m below sea level, with the
associated dune belt cropping out along the present coastline. An
overlying siliciclastic dune–beach system has been attributed to the OIS
5 in general, given thelack of reliabledatingforthis unit. Tothenorthof
Cape SanAntonio,reported data are scarcefor Last Interglacial sea-level
in Morro de Gos and Salou (Tarragona). Both studies (Zazo et al., 1981,
1987) point to the occurrence of two highstands during OIS 5 with an
intervening terrestrial deposit, but without any precise timing.
6.2. Sea surface conditions
Sea surface conditions during OIS 5, particularly temperature, can
be estimated by the presence or absence of significant Senegalese
fauna, especially S. bubonius. The present distribution of this warm
fauna along the eastern north Atlantic Ocean (Fig. 3), indicates that
this faunal assemblage requires a mean annual SST of around 23–
24 °C, never below 19–21 °C in the cold winter season, and salinity
around 34–35 psu. Oceanic surface currents distribute thewarm fauna
in larval stage, and so their survival and settlement depend on the
precise sea surface conditions of the coastal settings into which they
arrive. Therefore, the presence of Senegalese warm fauna, particularly
S.bubonius,in Mediterraneansettingsduringthewarmstagesof OIS5,
must be considered as a good proxy for the reconstruction of some
former palaeoceanographic physical and chemical parameters.
beginningof OIS 5e, disappearing at the end of this stage in the Balearic
on the Peninsular coasts of Almería, Murcia and Alicante (Fig. 10). The
abundanceofS.bubonius is considerablygreater in deposits from OIS5e
in some locations (e.g. Mallorca) at the end of OIS 5e, where only the
accompanying Senegalese fauna is recorded. Only two S. bubonius sites
at Morro del Gos, and a single level at Salou).
6.3. Meteorological conditions
Meteorological conditions throughout the entire Last Interglacial
can be inferred from the analyses of sedimentary facies and their
comparisonwith modern analogues. Different facies can be attributed
to differing wave energy or wind stress, or even increased runoff.
The Peninsular and insular Mediterranean coasts during the Last
Interglacial were characterized by diverse sedimentary environments.
coasts, but the spatial distribution of outcrops seems to be bracketed
Ibiza and Formentera in the Balearic Islands (Fig. 4). According to
modern analogues, and in the absence of significant tidal range, these
morphosedimentary units require a strong, constant wind activity to be
able to generate both the oolites and the associated dunebelts. The N–S
orientation of these “oolitic sectors”, suggest that the wind framework
capable of ensuring these physiographical conditions would have been
thebeginningofOIS5e, justprior toand duringthesea-levelhighstand.
Other important winds in the Mediterranean area at this time, such as
those from the SW, able to transport great amounts of pollen and dust
from the Sahara, would not have been so effective in inducing the
constant wind required to induce persistent wave energy.
With regard to the pattern of currents, we can imagine a hydrologic
scenario during the Last Interglacial similar to that of the Present
ooliteswereformed alongthese sectors, coincidingwith theareawhere
present Modified Atlantic Water and Northern Current interact. This
mixing of water masses could have created some precise geochemical
conditions that favoured oolitic development. To the north and south-
west of this “bracketed area” no oolitic formation has been reported,
even for areas where wide, shallow coastal shelves also occur.
A similar orientation of the coastal outline occurs inTunisia, where
wide oolitic dune–beach systems characterize the peak of the Last
Interglacial. This fact can be interpreted as evidence of considerable
eastern-wind activity during this period.
Comparing this with present wind distribution (Fig. 2), we can
observe that during the summer the prevailing winds in these coastal
sectors are currently from the east. Nevertheless, the fact that oolites
and dunes formed during the Last Interglacial in places where these
sedimentary features are absent suggests strong wind activity during
the Last Interglacial, probably warmer than that which currently
prevails in the Western Mediterranean.
Sedimentary environments changed dramatically at the end of
OIS 5e, or in subsequent substages, in many locations around the
Western Mediterranean. On Spain's Peninsular Mediterranean coasts,
oolitic dune–beach systems are replaced either by siliciclastic dune–
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
beach systems or by reddish clayey conglomerates. These reddish
facies suggest an important meteorological change marked firstly by
an increase in inland runoff, carrying away the previously formed red
soils, and secondly by an increase in storminess that can erode and
round the boulders embedded in the red matrix. On Mallorca, this
change is also characterized by an increase in storm activity, and
Fig. 10. A: Reconstruction of atmospheric–oceanographic scenario in Northern Hemisphere during the peak of OIS 5e, (mod. from Knudsen et al., 2002); E.G.C.: Eastern Greenland
Current; Solid blue lines indicate the distribution of Arctic, sub-Arctic, Boreal and Lusitanean microfaunal assemblages; Green arrows: north-westerlies pattern; H-L: High and Low-
pressurecells respectively;Red dashed arrowed lines: inferred path of warm North Atlantic Current. B: WesternMediterranean conditions during the peak of OIS 5e (ca.130 ka), with
indication of Strombus bubonius occurrence and special sedimentological features. Data from Iberian Peninsula vegetation and offshore Portugal from Sanchez-Goñi et al. (1999);
Green arrows, prevailing winds (interpreted from modern pattern after Drakopoulos and Lascaratos, 1999); Blue arrows: inferred circulation pattern, N.B.F.: North Balearic Front
(interpreted from modern analogue, from Millot,1999); Pluviosity in Alboran Sea after Pérez Folgado et al. (2004); Tunisia data after Lucas (1955) and Mahmoudi (1987); Sea Surface
Temperature interpreted by palaeontological distribution.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
dating carried out on these levels indicate that this change occurred in
a very short time span, at 117 kyr.
6.4. Correlation with North Atlantic climatic variability
The correlation of all of these key features with North Atlantic
climatic variability and the assessment of high and mid-latitude
responses to global climate change is a complex task.
During the warmest peak of Last Interglacial, high summer
insolation in the Northern Hemisphere induced a stronger influence
of the North Atlantic Current in the Nordic Seas, with a more
westward location of this current (Fig. 10A), which could have
strengthened the significant sea surface temperature gradient
recorded by microfaunal assemblages (Knudsen et al., 2002). This
oceanographic situation in the Nordic latitudes induced weaker
north-westerly winds in Western Europe, allowing a persistent
Fig.11. A: Reconstruction of atmospheric–oceanographic scenario in Northern Hemisphere at the end of OIS 5e (ca.116 ka); B: Western Mediterranean conditions at the end of OIS 5e
(see Fig. 10 for symbols and data sources; Northern Morocco, data from Alouane, 2001).
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
southward location of Azores High and high SST in the Western
Mediterranean, favoured by the prevailing anticyclonic conditions.
The increase in runoff or rainfall suggested by the development of ORL
(Organic Rich Layers) during the warmer OIS 5e substages in the
Alboran Sea (Pérez Folgado et al., 2004), could have caused variations
in the basin's hydrological budget and hence in SSS.
Higher sea surface temperature in Atlantic waters and the flow of
warmer waters into the Mediterranean led to the expansion and
flourishing of warm fauna (mainly S. bubonius) along Mediterranean
coasts, especially along the Almería-Alicante littoral, where a higher
number of highstands bearing S. bubonius and a greater abundance of
this species are recorded. This recordis also significanton the coasts of
Tunisia and Tyrrhenian coasts of Italy, being more reduced in the
Ligurian Sea, the Gulf of Lyon and on the Mediterranean coasts of
Morocco. This differential distribution and abundance must be due to
a difference in sea surface conditions, probably related to the
hydrological framework and to spatial differences in the hydrological
budget. Using the present-day circulation pattern (Millot, 1999) as a
modern analogue (Fig. 1), we suggest that locations with a more
abundant record of warm fauna would have been directly influenced
by fresher Atlantic waters, whereas localities that present fewer
specimens, were subject to a greater influence of the cooler and saltier
Northern Mediterranean Current. Consequently, the deepening of the
cooler NMC would have taken place to the north of Cape San Antonio,
at a more northerly position than today's. Seemingly, a northern
position of the Balearic Front (Fig. 10), determined by the northward
influence of north-westerlies, was responsible for SST distribution,
and consequently the distribution of warm fauna.
Compared with the present situation, meteorological conditions
during the warmest peak of the Last Interglacial could be attributed to
the summer wind stress scenario recorded at 10 m above the air–sea
interface (Fig. 2). In this scenario, the influence of north-westerlies is
not so marked, promoting a wind flow from the Gulf of Lyon to the
south, where it rotates in a westward direction and induces a marked
influence of eastern winds on the littorals of SE Spain and E Tunisia.
Given the lack of evidence for a different-from-present tidal range
in the sedimentary record of outcropping oolitic beaches, we assume a
wind-driven wave energy as the trigger for oolite formation. In this
sense, the N–S orientation of these coastal sectors where oolites
developed leads us to suggest a persistent influence of eastern winds
as the main driving mechanism.
These eastern winds would have been strong and persistent
enough to promote high wave energy that, together with the slowed
sea-level rise near the highstand of the peak of OIS 5e, favoured the
formation of an oolitic shoal in front of these littorals. Data from the
Alboran Sea (Pérez Folgado et al., 2004) and from Tunisia (Lucas,1955)
support an increase in rainfall or runoff at this time. However,
vegetation on the Iberian Peninsula was characterized by Mediterra-
nean species typical of a warm and seasonally humid climate, and
Eastern Atlantic waters in these middle latitudes presented high SST
(Sanchez-Goñi et al., 1999).
At the end of OIS 5e (116–117 kyr) this scenario started to change
(Fig. 11A). The Northern Hemisphere received lower summer insola-
tion during the second half of the Last Interglacial marine highstand
(CAPE Last Interglacial Members, 2006). Ice sheets began to grow and,
although high latitudes remained warm (McManus et al., 2002), the
flow of the warm North Atlantic Current to the Arctic Ocean was also
reduced (Knudsen et al., 2002). This situation led to a steeper
temperature gradient in Nordic Seas (Knudsen et al., 2002), and to a
southward displacement of enhanced north-westerlies over Europe,
which then began to sweep across the Iberian Peninsula. A vegetation
shift towards a temperate-cold forest (oceanic climate) resulted,
linked to the enlargement of the European cyclonic zone to include
South-western Europe (Sanchez-Goñi et al., 1999). The southward
migration of a branch of the warm North Atlantic Current at the end of
OIS 5e could be responsible for the recorded increase in SST off
Portugal (Sanchez-Goñi et al., 1999), and the entry of this warmer
water into the Mediterranean where S. bubonius or Senegalese warm
fauna still survived.
A weaker and latitudinally lowered Azores High favoured the
southern migration of the north-westerlies (Fig. 11A), promoting a
probablypersistent winter-likewind stress scenario(Fig. 2) in the Gulf
of Lyon. These features would likely have triggered the sudden, and
considerable, environmental changes recorded in the Western
Mediterranean. Southern displacement of north-westerlies was
probably linked to a southern displacement of the North Balearic
Front, inducing cooler waters in the Gulf of Lyon, and warmer waters
from the Balearics to the south. However, SST was slightly lower in
these islands, as we have a sudden faunal change recorded at 117 kyr
(Hillaire-Marcel et al.,1996; Zazo et al., 2003), with an initial record of
S. bubonius, and then its rapid disappearance. This change is recorded
on the island of Mallorca by two different morphosedimentary units
dated at 117 kyr. The first represents a higher highstand and higher
SST (S. bubonius record), while the second represents a sudden drop
both of sea level (lower highstand) and of SST (warm Senegalese
fauna, but no S. bubonius).
This drop in sea level is also recorded along the Peninsular Spanish
coasts, where this S. bubonius-bearing marine unit usually appears
incised into the earlier one. Even in Tunisia, although not all
researchers regard it as an independent highstand, a sudden drop in
sea level, together with an increase in storminess, is recorded at the
end of the OIS 5e (Paskoff and Sanlaville, 1980; Mahmoudi et al.,
The previously-mentioned change in the trajectory of North-
westerlies also influenced the prevailing winds in the Western
Mediterranean, promoting a persistence of northern winds in a
situation similar to a continued winter-like scenario (Fig. 2), with
significant wind stress. These strong north winds were probably
responsible for the registered increase in storminess at 117 kyr in the
In contrast, present-day catastrophic rain discharges are linked
with anticyclonic highs inwestern Europe, which push cold air masses
to the south, and cyclonic low pressure in the warm Western
Mediterranean area (Millán et al., 1995; Pastor et al., 2001), enabling
an important recharge of moisture. These current meteorological
conditions are probably similar to those that caused the increase in
rainfall, erosion of older red soils, and fluvial discharge represented by
the reddish facies conglomerates at the end of OIS 5e along Spanish
The palaeontological, sedimentological and geomorphological
records of OIS 5e deposits in the Western Mediterranean, allow the
proposal of a model for the connections between this basin and high-
latitude climatic changes in the Northern Hemisphere, in comparison
with modern analogues.
High-resolution ice, marine and terrestrial records of OIS 5e in the
Northern Hemisphere show a marked climate instability which is
reflected in the Mediterranean setting by important faunal and
sedimentological changes. Geomorphological analyses allow the
identification of different sea-level highstands.
During the warmest peak of Last Interglacial (OIS 5e), the Nordic
Seas experienced a northward influence of warm North Atlantic
Current, which could have reached Arctic or sub-Arctic areas. The
northern influence of north-westerlies could have facilitated the
predominance of eastern winds in the Western Mediterranean,
promoting strong wave energy along east-facing littorals of Iberian
Peninsula and Tunisia, where oolitic shoals developed, and where
oolitic dune–beach systems developed. High sea surface temperature
is evidenced by the presence of Senegalese fauna, specifically S.
T. Bardají et al. / Geomorphology 104 (2009) 22–37
The end of the OIS 5e, is characterized by a decreasing influence of
the warm North Atlantic Current in high latitudes, and bya southward
migration of north-westerlies which induced a strongnorthern-winds
influence in the Western Mediterranean. Here, SST remained warm
but the area experienced an increase in both storminess and runoff.
In summary, sedimentology, palaeontology and geomorphology of
OIS 5e deposits in the Western Mediterranean can be considered a
useful tool in the reconstruction of ocean–atmosphere interactions as
the driving mechanisms of environmental changes.
Research financed by Spanish Projects CGL-2005-04655/BTE, and
CGL-2005-01336/BTE; Consolider—Ingenio 2010 GRACCIE. This paper is
a contribution to IGCP Project 495 (Quaternary Land-Ocean Interactions:
Driving mechanisms and Coastal Responses) and INQUA Coastal and
Marine Processes Commission. Our acknowledgments also to Dr.
Delminda Moura and anonymous referee who greatly helped in the
improvement of this work.
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