New cores from the upper continental slope off Romania in the western Black Sea provide a continuous, high-resolution record of sedimentation rates, clay mineralogy, calcium carbonate content, and stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon over the last 20000 yr in the western Black Sea. These records all indicate major changes occurring at 15 000, 12 800, 8400, and 7 100 yr before present. These results are interpreted to reflect an evolving balance between water supplied by melting glacial ice and other river runoff and water removed by evaporation and outflow. The marked retreat of the Fennoscandian and Alpine ice between 15 000 and 14 000 yr is recorded by an increase in clays indicative of northern provenance in Black Sea sediments. A short return toward glacial values in all the measured series occurs during the Younger Dryas cold period. The timing of the first marine inflow to the Black Sea is dependent on the sill depths of the Bosporus and Dardanelles channels. The depth of the latter is known to be - 80 +/- 5 m, which is consistent with first evidence of marine inundation in the Sea of Marmara around 12 000 yr. The bedrock gorge of the Bosporus reaches depths in excess of -100 m (relative to present sea level), though it is now filled with sediments to depths as shallow as -32 m. Two scenarios are developed for the connection of the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. One is based on a deep Bosporus sill depth (effectively equivalent to the Dardanelles), and the other is based on a shallow Bosporus sill (less than -35 m). In the deep sill scenario the Black Sea's surface rises in tandem with the Sea of Marmara once the latter connected with the Aegean Sea, and Black Sea outflow remains continuous with inflowing marine water gradually displacing the freshwater in the deep basin. The increase in the delta(18)O of mollusk shells at 12 800 yr and the simultaneous appearance of inorganic calcite with low delta(18)O is compatible with such an early marine water influx causing periodic weak stratification of the water column. In the shallow sill scenario the Black Sea level is decoupled from world sea level and experiences rise and fall depending on the regional water budget until water from the rising Sea of Marmara breaches the shallow sill. In this case the oxygen isotope trend and the inorganic calcite precipitation is caused by increased evaporation in the basin, and the other changes in sediment properties reflect climate-driven river runoff variations within the Black Sea watershed. The presence of saline ponds on the Black Sea shelf circa 9600 yr support such evaporative draw-down, but a sensitive geochemical indicator of marine water, one that is not subject to temperature, salinity, or biological fractionation, is required to resolve whether the sill was deep or shallow. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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