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Late Holocene climate reconstructions for the Russian steppe, based on mineralogical and magnetic properties of buried palaeosols.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date11/06/2007
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Journal number1-2
Volume249
Number of pages25
Pages103-127
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Insights into past climate changes, and corresponding evolution of soils and the environment, can be gained by multidisciplinary studies of palaeosols. Here, we focus on palaeosols buried beneath archaeological monuments, specifically, funerary mounds (kurgans), in the Russian steppe. The kurgans were constructed, and each of the palaoesols buried, over a range of different timesteps from the mid-Holocene to ~ 600 years before present (yr BP). Integrated magnetic, mineralogical and pedological data were used to obtain estimates of past climate (especially precipitation) changes, through both time and space. A soil magnetism-based climofunction, derived previously from modern steppe soils and modern climate, was applied to each set of palaeosols, to obtain quantitative reconstructions of annual precipitation for the time at which the soils were buried. Independent soil property data (clay mineralogy, salt content, iron mineralogy from Mossbauer analysis, and optical and electron microscopy) were also obtained, in order to test and substantiate the magnetic inferences. The data obtained indicate that the climate of the Lower Volga steppe area has varied from the mid-Holocene onwards. Precipitation minima occurred at ~ 5000, ~ 3800, and ~ 1600 yr BP, with intervals of enhanced precipitation at ~ 1900 yr BP and ~ 600 yr BP. These rainfall variations appear to occur synchronously with changes in Middle Eastern precipitation and lake levels, suggesting they are controlled by index changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation.