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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Jan 26;113(4):919-24. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1515478113. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

Pedothem carbonates reveal anomalous North American atmospheric circulation 70,000-55,000 years ago.

Author information

1
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720; erikjoerter@gmail.com.
2
Berkeley Geochronology Center, Berkeley, CA 94709;
3
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240;
4
Biology Department, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI 53226;
5
Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Laboratory, Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706;
6
Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Laboratory, Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706; Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455;
7
School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3099, Australia;
8
Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106.
9
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;

Abstract

Our understanding of climatic conditions, and therefore forcing factors, in North America during the past two glacial cycles is limited in part by the scarcity of long, well-dated, continuous paleoclimate records. Here, we present the first, to our knowledge, continuous, millennial-resolution paleoclimate proxy record derived from millimeter-thick pedogenic carbonate clast coatings (pedothems), which are widely distributed in semiarid to arid regions worldwide. Our new multiisotope pedothem record from the Wind River Basin in Wyoming confirms a previously hypothesized period of increased transport of Gulf of Mexico moisture northward into the continental interior from 70,000 to 55,000 years ago based on oxygen and carbon isotopes determined by ion microprobe and uranium isotopes and U-Th dating by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. This pronounced meridional moisture transport, which contrasts with the dominant zonal transport of Pacific moisture into the North American interior by westerly winds before and after 70,000-55,000 years ago, may have resulted from a persistent anticyclone developed above the North American ice sheet during Marine Isotope Stage 4. We conclude that pedothems, when analyzed using microanalytical techniques, can provide high-resolution paleoclimate records that may open new avenues into understanding past terrestrial climates in regions where paleoclimate records are not otherwise available. When pedothem paleoclimate records are combined with existing records they will add complimentary soil-based perspectives on paleoclimate conditions.

KEYWORDS:

Marine Isotope Stage 4; U-series dating; carbon oxygen uranium isotopes; paleoclimate; pedogenic carbonate

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