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Middle and Late Pleistocene humid periods recorded in palaeolake deposits of the Nafud desert, Saudi Arabia

Rosenberg, T., Preusser, F., Risberg, J., Plikk, A., Kadi, K. A. and Fleitmann, D. (2013) Middle and Late Pleistocene humid periods recorded in palaeolake deposits of the Nafud desert, Saudi Arabia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 70. pp. 109-123. ISSN 0277-3791

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Abstract/Summary

Present climate in the Nafud desert of northern Saudi Arabia is hyper-arid and moisture brought by north-westerly winds scarcely reaches the region. The existence of abundant palaeolake sediments provides evidence for a considerably wetter climate in the past. However, the existing chronological framework of these deposits is solely based on radiocarbon dating of questionable reliability, due to potential post-depositional contamination with younger 14C. By using luminescence dating, we show that the lake deposits were not formed between 40 and 20 ka as suggested previously, but approximately ca 410 ka, 320 ka, 200 ka, 125 ka, and 100 ka ago. All of these humid phases are in good agreement with those recorded in lake sediments and speleothems from southern Arabia. Surprisingly, no Holocene lake deposits were identified. Geological characteristics of the deposits and diatom analysis suggest that a single, perennial lake covered the entire south-western Nafud ca 320 ka ago. In contrast, lakes of the 200 ka, 125 ka, and 100 ka humid intervals were smaller and restricted to interdune depressions of a pre-existing dune relief. The concurrent occurrence of humid phases in the Nafud, southern Arabia and the eastern Mediterranean suggests that moisture in northern Arabia originated either from the Mediterranean due to more frequent frontal depression systems or from stronger Indian monsoon circulation, respectively. However, based on previously published climate model simulations and palaecolimate evidence from central Arabia and the Negev desert, we argue that humid climate conditions in the Nafud were probably caused by a stronger African monsoon and a distinct change in zonal atmospheric circulation.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Past Climate Change
ID Code:40301
Publisher:Elsevier

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