High-resolution Hf isotopic records are presented for hydrogenetic Fe–Mn crusts from the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans. BM1969 from the western North Atlantic has previously been shown to record systematically decreasing Nd isotopic compositions from about 60 to ∼4 Ma, at which time both show a rapid decrease to unradiogenic Nd composition, thought to be related to the increasing influence of NADW or glaciation in the northern hemisphere. During the Oligocene, North Atlantic Hf became progressively less radiogenic until in the mid-Miocene (∼15 Ma) it reached +1. It then shifted gradually back to an ϵHf value of +3 at 4 Ma, since when it has decreased rapidly to about −1 at the present day. The observed shifts in the Hf isotopic composition were probably caused by variation in intensity of erosion as glaciation progressed in the northern hemisphere. Ferromanganese crusts SS663 and 109D are from about 5500 m depth in the Indian Ocean and are now separated by ∼2300 km across the Mid-Indian Ridge. They display similar trends in Hf isotopic composition from 20 to 5 Ma, with the more northern crust having a composition that is consistently more radiogenic (by ∼2 ϵHf units). Paradoxically, during the last 20 Ma the Hf isotopic compositions of the two crusts have converged despite increased separation and subsidence relative to the ridge. A correlatable negative excursion at ∼5 Ma in the two records may reflect a short-term increase in erosion caused by the activation of the Himalayan main central thrust. Changes to unradiogenic Hf in the central Indian Ocean after 5 Ma may alternatively have been caused by the expanding influence of NADW into the Mid-Indian Basin via circum-Antarctic deep water or a reduction of Pacific flow through the Indonesian gateway. In either case, these results illustrate the utility of the Hf isotope system as a tracer of paleoceanographic changes, capable of responding to subtle changes in erosional regime not readily resolved using other isotope systems.
Additional publication details
Changes in erosion and ocean circulation recorded in the Hf isotopic compositions of North Atlantic and Indian Ocean ferromanganese crusts