The Bransfield Strait (Antarctica) is an important region for evaluating changes in Weddell Sea shelf waters on geological time scales because of its restricted connections to the surrounding ocean. However, the detailed oceanographic consequences of the opening of the strait remain unclear. We present bottom-current-related sedimentary features in the Bransfield Strait and examine the impact of the strait’s opening on deep-water circulation. Our findings show that the ocean circulation started to resemble that of the present day after a period of volcanic activity, possibly around the Middle Pleistocene. Coeval changes in Bransfield Strait morphology and an increase in seafloor irregularities due to the formation of volcanic chains finally determined new pathways for the Bransfield deep and bottom waters, enhanced due to the new climatic scenario of 100 k.y. cycles. The fact that “modernlike” oceanic circulation occurred only during previous interglacial periods demonstrates the significant impact of 100 k.y. climate cycles on the thermohaline changes of Antarctic deep waters. Hence, establishing a modern-day circulation model would enable researchers to assess paleoproductivity and local upwelling that have profoundly influenced the marine ecosystem of the Antarctic Peninsula after the Middle Pleistocene.

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