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Nat Commun. 2014 May 2;5:3805. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4805.

Orbital control of western North America atmospheric circulation and climate over two glacial cycles.

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Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA.
Department of Geology, Cornell College, 600 First Street West, Mount Vernon, Iowa 52314, USA.
Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of New Mexico, 221 Yale Boulevard NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA.


The now arid Great Basin of western North America hosted expansive late Quaternary pluvial lakes, yet the climate forcings that sustained large ice age hydrologic variations remain controversial. Here we present a 175,000 year oxygen isotope record from precisely-dated speleothems that documents a previously unrecognized and highly sensitive link between Great Basin climate and orbital forcing. Our data match the phasing and amplitudes of 65°N summer insolation, including the classic saw-tooth pattern of global ice volume and on-time terminations. Together with the observation of cold conditions during the marine isotope substage 5d glacial inception, our data document a strong precessional-scale Milankovitch forcing of southwestern paleoclimate. Because the expansion of pluvial lakes was associated with cold glacial conditions, the reappearance of large lakes in the Great Basin is unlikely until ca. 55,000 years into the future as climate remains in a mild non-glacial state over the next half eccentricity cycle.


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