Quaternary Stratigraphy of Bermuda: A High-Resolution Pre-Sangamonian Rock Record

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Carbonate islands such as Bermuda are created by climatic change. Warm climates and high sea levels stimulate carbonate sediment production that may ultimately result in island growth, while cold glacials expose the platforms to weathering, dissolution and soil formation. Of great importance in Quaternary studies is the ability to decipher this climatic history. Mapping and geochronologic studies have established that Bermuda may have one of the most continuous and detailed Quaternary interglacial depositional records on a carbonate platform. Advances in racemization dating (AAR) have offered a means of deciphering this climatic history and generating a high-resolution stratigraphic and age framework for the Quaternary.

Bermudian interglacial units consist predominantly of eolianites, with less voluminous occurrences of beach deposits and calcarenite protosols (Entisols). Glacial or stadial-age terra rossa (aluminous laterite) paleosols, whose degree of development is a function of time of exposure, form boundaries between interglacial units. d-alloiso-leucine/l-isoleucine (AI) ratios have been determined on marine pelecypods, land snails and whole-rock samples from mapped sections; aminozones have been defined for two Sangamonian and at least five pre-Sangamonian depositional intervals. From kinetic models based on calibration with previously published U-series coral dates, estimated ages of middle Pleistocene and older aminozones are: F = 190,000–265,000 years; G = 300,000–400,000 years; H = 400,000–500,000 years; J = >700,000 years; and K = > 900,000 years.

Aminozone G, which is correlated with the upper Town Hill Formation and Isotope Stage 9, is volumetrically the most important depositional event of the middle Pleistocene. The great mass of sediment deposited during this period suggests an interglacial of significant duration and prolonged shelf submergence, during which the island grew to over half its present size. Only the Sangamonian (sensu lato) rivals Stage 9 in volume of eolianite deposited on the island. Sea-level amplitude, as determined from dated outcrops, appears to correlate well with amplitudinal variations in the oxygen isotope record.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 13, issue 8, p. 685-697