The Magnitude, Timing and Abruptness of Changes in North African Dust Deposition over the Last 20,000 yr

McGee, D.; deMenocal, Peter B.; Winckler, Gisela; Stuut, J. B. W.; Bradtmiller, L. I.

Reconstructions of eolian dust accumulation in northwest African margin sediments provide important continuous records of past changes in atmospheric circulation and aridity in the region. Existing records indicate dramatic changes in North African dust emissions over the last 20 ka, but the limited spatial extent of these records and the lack of high-resolution flux data do not allow us to determine whether changes in dust deposition occurred with similar timing, magnitude and abruptness throughout northwest Africa. Here we present new records from a meridional transect of cores stretching from 31°N to 19°N along the northwest African margin. By combining grain size endmember modeling with 230Th-normalized fluxes for the first time, we are able to document spatial and temporal changes in dust deposition under the North African dust plume throughout the last 20 ka. Our results provide quantitative estimates of the magnitude of dust flux changes associated with Heinrich Stadial 1, the Younger Dryas, and the African Humid Period (AHP; ∼11.7–5 ka), offering robust targets for model-based estimates of the climatic and biogeochemical impacts of past changes in North African dust emissions. Our data suggest that dust fluxes between 8 and 6 ka were a factor of ∼5 lower than average fluxes during the last 2 ka. Using a simple model to estimate the effects of bioturbation on dust input signals, we find that our data are consistent with abrupt, synchronous changes in dust fluxes in all cores at the beginning and end of the AHP. The mean ages of these transitions are 11.8±0.2 ka (1σ) and 4.9±0.2 ka, respectively.


Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
January 22, 2014