Oxygen and carbon isotope time-series derived from an actively growing aragonitic stalagmite in DeSoto Caverns exhibit with unusual clarity rapid hydroclimate changes in the mid-to-late Holocene. Data consist of 1884 δ18O and δ13C determinations whose chronology is anchored on 35 230Th/234U absolute dates in the interval 6.0–1.1 cal ka BP. Exceptional 18O and 13C-enrichments centered at 4.8 ± 0.14 cal ka BP likely represent the imprints of a severe drought. Isotope cycles from 4.7 to 1.3 cal ka BP, exhibit a dominant periodicity of 68 ± 4 yrs. A gradual cooling trend of ∼0.6 °C/103 yrs is attributed to a declining seasonal contrast in insolation. The synchronicity of the mega-drought in the Southeast US with the (1) termination of the African Humid Period; (ii) abrupt reduction of the North Atlantic Deep Water production, and (iii) rapid sea-ice expansion in the polar regions of both Hemispheres testifies to the global extent and rapidity of the “5 ka” event and points to the North Atlantic Deep Water variability as the likely controlling factor. The multidecadal cycles are consistent with alternating dry and wet summers occurring during a long-term switch in the seasonal rainfall amount dominance from winter to summer. The periodic summer droughts in the Southeast US support climate models that predict profound hydroclimate changes in the late Holocene governed by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The relatively short and rapid hydroclimate phase transitions documented in this study introduce a complication in the correlation of late Holocene drought events that had significant societal impacts.
Quaternary Science Reviews – Elsevier
Published: Aug 15, 2017
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