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Title: Orbital precession modulates interannual rainfall variability, as recorded in an Early Pleistocene speleothem

Abstract

Interannual variability of African rainfall impacts local and global communities, but its past behavior and response in future climate projections are poorly understood. This is primarily due to short instrumental records and a lack of long high-resolution palaeoclimate proxy records. Here we present an annually resolved 91,000 year Early Pleistocene record of hydroclimate from the early hominin-bearing Makapansgat Valley, South Africa. Changes in speleothem annual band thickness are dominated by precession over four consecutive orbital cycles with strong millennial-scale periodicity. The frequency of interannual variability (2.0–6.5 yr oscillations) does not change systematically, yet its amplitude is modulated by the orbital forcing. These long-term characteristics of interannual variability are reproduced with transient climate model simulations of water balance for South Africa from the Late Pleistocene to Recent. Based on these results, we suggest that the frequency of interannual variations in southern African rainfall is likely to be stable under anthropogenic warming, but that the size of year-to-year variations may increase. We see an orbitally forced increase in the amplitude of interannual climate variability between 1.8 Ma and 1.7 Ma coincident with the first evidence for the Acheulean stone tool technology.

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [5];  [6];  [7];  [8];  [9];  [10];  [10];  [11]
  1. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK
  2. Met Office, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BB, UK
  3. Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  4. Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, University College London, University Street, London WC1E 6JJ, UK
  5. Department of Archaeology and History, LaTrobe University, Melbourne Campus, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia; Centre for Anthropological Research, University of Johannesburg, Bunting Road Campus, Auckland Park 2092, South Africa
  6. Department of Archaeology and History, LaTrobe University, Melbourne Campus, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia
  7. School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK
  8. School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK; Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering, Babes¸-Bolyai University, Strada Fântânele, Cluj-Napoca 400000, Romania
  9. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth PO1 3QL, UK; NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
  10. NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
  11. Department of Geography, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1565698
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Geology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 46; Journal Issue: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 0091-7613
Publisher:
Geological Society of America
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Geology

Citation Formats

Hopley, Philip J., Weedon, Graham P., Brierley, Chris M., Thrasivoulou, Christopher, Herries, Andy I. R., Dinckal, Ada, Richards, David A., Nita, Dan C., Parrish, Randall R., Roberts, Nick M. W., Sahy, Diana, and Smith, Claire L. Orbital precession modulates interannual rainfall variability, as recorded in an Early Pleistocene speleothem. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1130/g45019.1.
Hopley, Philip J., Weedon, Graham P., Brierley, Chris M., Thrasivoulou, Christopher, Herries, Andy I. R., Dinckal, Ada, Richards, David A., Nita, Dan C., Parrish, Randall R., Roberts, Nick M. W., Sahy, Diana, & Smith, Claire L. Orbital precession modulates interannual rainfall variability, as recorded in an Early Pleistocene speleothem. United States. doi:10.1130/g45019.1.
Hopley, Philip J., Weedon, Graham P., Brierley, Chris M., Thrasivoulou, Christopher, Herries, Andy I. R., Dinckal, Ada, Richards, David A., Nita, Dan C., Parrish, Randall R., Roberts, Nick M. W., Sahy, Diana, and Smith, Claire L. Thu . "Orbital precession modulates interannual rainfall variability, as recorded in an Early Pleistocene speleothem". United States. doi:10.1130/g45019.1.
@article{osti_1565698,
title = {Orbital precession modulates interannual rainfall variability, as recorded in an Early Pleistocene speleothem},
author = {Hopley, Philip J. and Weedon, Graham P. and Brierley, Chris M. and Thrasivoulou, Christopher and Herries, Andy I. R. and Dinckal, Ada and Richards, David A. and Nita, Dan C. and Parrish, Randall R. and Roberts, Nick M. W. and Sahy, Diana and Smith, Claire L.},
abstractNote = {Interannual variability of African rainfall impacts local and global communities, but its past behavior and response in future climate projections are poorly understood. This is primarily due to short instrumental records and a lack of long high-resolution palaeoclimate proxy records. Here we present an annually resolved 91,000 year Early Pleistocene record of hydroclimate from the early hominin-bearing Makapansgat Valley, South Africa. Changes in speleothem annual band thickness are dominated by precession over four consecutive orbital cycles with strong millennial-scale periodicity. The frequency of interannual variability (2.0–6.5 yr oscillations) does not change systematically, yet its amplitude is modulated by the orbital forcing. These long-term characteristics of interannual variability are reproduced with transient climate model simulations of water balance for South Africa from the Late Pleistocene to Recent. Based on these results, we suggest that the frequency of interannual variations in southern African rainfall is likely to be stable under anthropogenic warming, but that the size of year-to-year variations may increase. We see an orbitally forced increase in the amplitude of interannual climate variability between 1.8 Ma and 1.7 Ma coincident with the first evidence for the Acheulean stone tool technology.},
doi = {10.1130/g45019.1},
journal = {Geology},
issn = {0091-7613},
number = 8,
volume = 46,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {7}
}

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