It has long been known that extreme changes in North African hydroclimate occurred during the late Pleistocene yet many discrepancies exist between sites regarding the timing, duration and abruptness of events such as Heinrich Stadial (HS) 1 and the African Humid Period (AHP). The hydroclimate history of the Nile River is of particular interest due to its lengthy human occupation history yet there are presently few continuous archives from the Nile River corridor, and pre-Holocene studies are rare. Here we present new organic and inorganic geochemical records of Nile Basin hydroclimate from an eastern Mediterranean (EM) Sea sediment core spanning the past 28 ka BP. Our multi-proxy records reflect the fluctuating inputs of Blue Nile versus White Nile material to the EM Sea in response to gradual changes in local insolation and also capture abrupt hydroclimate events driven by remote climate forcings, such as HS1. We find strong evidence for extreme aridity within the Nile Basin evolving in two distinct phases during HS1, from 17.5 to 16 ka BP and from 16 to 14.5 ka BP, whereas peak wet conditions during the AHP are observed from 9 to 7 ka BP. We find that zonal movements of the Congo Air Boundary (CAB), and associated shifts in the dominant moisture source (Atlantic versus Indian Ocean moisture) to the Nile Basin, likely contributed to abrupt hydroclimate variability in northern East Africa during HS1 and the AHP as well as to non-linear behavior of hydroclimate proxies. We note that different proxies show variable gradual and abrupt responses to individual hydroclimate events, and thus might have different inherent sensitivities, which may be a factor contributing to the controversy surrounding the abruptness of past events such as the AHP. During the Late Pleistocene the Nile Basin experienced extreme hydroclimate fluctuations, which presumably impacted Paleolithic cultures residing along the Nile corridor.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters – Elsevier
Published: Mar 15, 2016
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