Skip to main content

Early to Mid-Holocene Aridity in Central Chile and the Southern Westerlies: The Laguna Aculeo Record (34°S)

  • Bettina Jenny (a1), Blas L. Valero-Garcés (a2), Rodrigo Villa-Martínez (a3), Roberto Urrutia (a4), Mebus Geyh (a5) and Heinz Veit (a1)...

Central Chile (32–35°S) lies at the northern border of strong Westerly influence and thus exhibits a steep precipitation gradient. Therefore, the palaeoclimatic archives in the region are suitable for detecting past moisture changes. The study of Laguna Aculeo (33°50'S, 70°54'W) presents a multiproxy Holocene lake record including sedimentology, geochemistry, mineralogy, pollen, diatoms, and radiocarbon dating (17 dates). Results indicate an arid early to mid-Holocene period (about 9500–5700 cal yr B.P.). After 5700 cal yr B.P. effective moisture increased progressively and around 3200 cal yr B.P., modern humid conditions were established. Numerous intercalated clastic layers reflect flood deposition during rainy winters. A fluvial unit was deposited shortly before 9000 cal yr B.P. Subsequently, flood events were absent until 5700 but have become frequent since 3200 cal yr B.P. The frequency of flood layers possibly points to weak or no El Niño activity during the early and mid-Holocene, with a subsequent increase during the late Holocene. During the early and mid-Holocene, the Westerlies were probably blocked and hence deflected southward by the subtropical high-pressure cell. Higher precipitation during the last 3200 yr seems strongly related to a weakened subtropical high-pressure cell with intensified Westerlies and possibly increased El Niño activity.

Corresponding author
1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Fax: 41 (0)31 631 85 11. E-mail:
Hide All
Aceituno, P. On the functioning of the Southern Oscillation in the South American sector. Part 1. Surface climate. Monthly Weather Review 116, (1988). 505 524.
Berger, A., and Loutre, M.F. Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quaternary Science Reviews 10, (1991). 297 317.
Betancourt, J.L., Latorre, C., Rech, J.A., Quade, J., and Rylander, K.A. A 22,000-year record of monsoonal precipitation from Northern Chile's Atacama desert. Science 289, (2000). 1542 1546.
Cabrera, S., and Montecino, V. Eutrophy of Lake Aculeo, Chile. Plant and Soil 67, (1982). 377 387.
Clement, A.C., Seager, R., and Cane, M.A. Suppression of El Niño during the mid-Holocene by changes in the Earth's orbit. Palaeoceanography 15, (2000). 731 737.
Corvalán, J, and Munizaga, F. (1972). Edades radiometricas de rocas intrusivas y metamorficas de la Hoja Valparaı́so—San Antonio, Chile. Instituto de Investigaciones Geologicas, . [In Spanish]
Cross, S.L., Baker, P.A., Seltzer, G.O., Fritz, S.C., and Dunbar, R.B. A new estimate of the Holocene lowstand level of Lake Titicaca, central Andes, and implications for tropical palaeohydrology. The Holocene 10, (2000). 21 32.
deMenocal, P., Ortiz, J., Guilderson, T., Adkins, J., Sarnthein, M., Baker, L., and Yarusinsky, M. Abrupt onset and termination of the African Humid period: Rapid climate responses to gradual insolation forcing. Quaternary Science Reviews 19, (2000). 347 361.
deVries, T.J., Ortlieb, L., Diaz, A., Wells, L., Hillaire, M., Wells, L.E., Jay, S., Sandweiss, D.H., Richardson, J.B. III, Reitz, E.J., Rollins, H.B., and Maasch, K.A. Determining the early history of El Niño. Science 276, (1997). 965 967.
Faegri, K., and Iversen, J. Textbook of Pollen Analysis. (1989). Amsterdam, Balkena.
Fontugne, M., Usselmann, P., Lavallée, D., Julien, M., and Hatté, C.1999. El Niño variability in the coastal desert of Southern Peru during the mid-Holocene. Quaternary Research52, 171–179,
Grosjean, M. Mid-Holocene climate in the South-Central Andes: Humid or dry?. Science 292, (2001). 2391
Grosjean, M., Geyh, M.A., Messerli, B., Schreier, H., and Veit, H. A late-Holocene (<2600 B.P.) glacial advance in the south-central Andes (29°), northern Chile. The Holocene 8, (1998). 473 479.
Hasle, G., and Fryxell, G. Diatoms: Cleaning and mounting for light and electron microscopy. Transactions of American Microscopy Society 89, (1970). 469 474.
Heusser, C.J. Quaternary pollen record from Laguna de Tagua Tagua, Chile. Science 219, (1983). 1429 1432.
Heusser, C.J. Ice age vegetation and climate of subtropical Chile. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 80, (1990). 107 127.
Jenny, B., Valero-Garcés, B.L., Urrutia, R., Kelts, K., Veit, H., and Geyh, M. Moisture changes and fluctuations of the Westerlies in Mediterranean Central Chile during the last 2000 years: The Laguna Aculeo record (33°50'S). Quaternary International 87, (2002). 3 18.
Keefer, D.K., deFrance, S.D., Moseley, M.E., Richardson, J.B. III, Satterlee, D.R., and Day-Lewis, A. Early maritime economy and El Niño events at Quebrada Tacahuay, Peru. Science 281, (1998). 1833 1835.
Kutzbach, J.E., and Street-Perrott, F.A. Milankovitch forcing of fluctuations in the level of tropical lakes from 18 to 0 kyr B.P. Nature 317, (1985). 130 134.
Lamy, F., Hebbeln, D., and Wefer, G. High-resolution marine record of climatic change in mid-latitude Chile during the last 28,000 years based on terrigenous sediment parameters. Quaternary Research 51, (1999). 83 93.
Lamy, F., Hebbeln, D., Roehl, U., and Wefer, G. (2001). Holocene rainfall variability in southern Chile: A marine record of latitudinal shifts of the Southern Westerlies. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 185, 369382.,
Markgraf, V. Palaeoclimates in central and south America since 18,000 B.P. based on pollen and lake-level records. Quaternary Science Reviews 8, (1989). 1 24.
Markgraf, V. Paleoenvironments and paleoclimates in Tierra del Fuego and southernmost Patagonia, South America. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 102, (1993). 53 68.
Markgraf, V. (1998). Past climates of South America.. In Climates of the Southern Continents: Present, Past and Future Hobbs, J. E., Lindesay, J. A., and Bridgman, H. A., Eds., pp. 249264. Wiley, Chichester, UK.
McGlone, M.S., Kershaw, A.P., and Margraf, V. El Niño/Southern Oscillation climatic variability in Australasian and South American paleoenvironmental records. Diaz, H., and Markgraf, V. El Niño: Historical and Paleoclimatic Aspects of the Southern Oscillation. (1992). Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge. 435 462.
Montecinos, A, and Aceituno, P. 1997, Rainfall prediction for the austral winter in Central Chile based on a CCA forecast and a Niño 3 analog evolution approach, Experimental Long-Lead Forecast Bulletins, June 1997.
Montecinos, A., Dı&#x0301;az, A., and Aceituno, P. Seasonal diagnostic and predictability of rainfall in subtropical South America based on tropical Pacific SST. Journal of Climate 13, (2000). 746 758.
Mortlock, R.A., and Froelich, P.N. A simple method for the rapid determination of biogenic opal in pelagic marine sediments. Deep-Sea Research 36, (1989). 1415 1426.
Perrier, C., Hillaire-Marcel, C., and Ortlieb, L. Littoral paleogeography and isotopic record 13C, 18O of El Niño events in modern and holocene mollusk shells from NW Peru. Geographie Physique et Quaternaire 48, (1994). 23 38.
Rodbell, D.T., Seltzer, G.O., Anderson, D.M., Abbott, M.B., Enfield, D.B., and Newman, J.H. A ∼15,000-year record of El Niño-driven alluviation in southwestern Ecuador. Science 283, (1999). 516 520.
Rutllant, J., and Fuenzalida, H. Synoptic aspects of the central Chile rainfall variability associated with the Southern Oscillation. International Journal of Climatology 11, (1991). 63 76.
Sandweiss, D.H., Richardson, J.B. III, Reitz, E.J., Rollins, H.B., and Maasch, K.A. Geoarchaeological evidence from Peru for a 5000 years B.P. onset of El Niño. Science 273, (1996). 1531 1533.
Sandweiss, D.H., Maasch, K.A., and Anderson, D.G. Transitions in the mid-Holocene. Science 283, (1999). 499 500.
Seltzer, G.O., Baker, P., Cross, S., Dunbar, R., and Fritz, S. High-resolution seismic reflection profiles from Lake Titicaca, Peru-Bolivia: Evidence for Holocene aridity in the tropical Andes. Geology 26, (1998). 167 170.
Shulmeister, J. Australasian evidence for mid-holocene climate change implies precessional control of Walker Circulation in the Pacific. Quaternary International 57/58, (1999). 81 91.
Steig, E.J. Mid-Holocene climate change. Science 286, (1999). 1485 1487.
Stuiver, M., and Reimer, P.J. Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 35, (1993). 215 230.
Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen, K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, F.G., van der Plicht, J., and Spurk, M. INTCAL98 Radiocarbon age calibration 24,000-0 cal B.P. Radiocarbon 40, (1998). 1041 1083.
Valero-Garcés, B.L., Grosjean, M., Schwalb, A., Geyh, M., Messerli, B., and Kelts, K. Limnogeology of Laguna Miscanti: Evidence for mid to late Holocene moisture changes in the Atacama Altiplano (northern Chile). Journal of Paleolimnology 16, (1996). 1 21.
Valero-Garcés, B.L., González-Sampériz, P., Delgado-Huertas, A., Navas, A., Machı&#x0301;n, J., and Kelts, K. Lateglacial and Late Holocene environmental and vegetational change in Salada Mediana, central Ebro Basin, Spain. Quaternary International 73–74, (2000). 29 46.
van Geel, B., Heusser, C.J., Renssen, H., and Schuurmans, C.J.E. Climatic change in Chile at around 2700 B.P. and global evidence for solar forcing: A hypothesis. The Holocene 10, (2000). 659 664.
Veit, H. Southern Westerlies during the Holocene deduced from geomorphological and pedological studies in the Norte Chico, Northern Chile (27–33°C). Palaeogeography, Palaeclimatology, Palaeoecology 123, (1996). 107 119.
Villa-Martı&#x0301;nez, R., and Villagrán, C. Historia de la vegetación de bosques pantanosos de la costa de Chile central durante el Holoceno medio y tardı&#x0301;o. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 70, (1997). 391 401.
Villagrán, C., and Varela, J. Palynological evidence for increased aridity on the Central Chilean coast during the Holocene. Quaternary Research 34, (1990). 198 207.
Wirrmann, D., and Mourguiart, P. (1995). Late quaternary spatio-temporal limnological variation in the Altiplano of Bolivia and Peru. Quaternary Research 43, 344354.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed