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An Andean ice-core record of a Middle Holocene mega-drought in North Africa and Asia

  • Mary E. Davis (a1) and Lonnie G. Thompson (a1) (a2)

An ice core from the Nevado Huascaran col in the Cordillera Blanca of northern Peru contains high-resolution time series of dust concentrations and size distributions since the end of the last glacial stage. A large dust peak, dated ∼4500 years ago, is contemporaneous with a widespread and prolonged drought that apparently extended from North Africa to eastern China, evidence of which occurs in historical, archeological and paleoclimatic records. This event may have been associated with several centuries of weak Asian/Indian/African monsoons, possibly linked with a protracted cooling in the North Atlantic. During the second half of the 20th century, high austral-summer dust concentrations in the Huascaran record are significantly correlated with atmospheric conditions, such as sea-level pressure and zonal wind velocities that are consistent with El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) indices, and with aridity in North Africa, southwest Asia and the Middle East. Therefore, the dominant submicron fraction of the dust may have been transported by more intense northeasterly trade winds from the African dry regions across the tropical Atlantic during a period of frequent and/or intense ENSO activity. The proposed ENSO conditions that may have been linked with drought in the monsoon region may also have contributed to aridity in tropical South America, including the Cordillera Blanca.

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Annals of Glaciology
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