Section 5.2: Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution

We investigate climate change in the geological and historical past and its impacts on the human habitat as well as past changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. Main foci of our research are particularly rapid climate changes that occurred within a few years or decades. Therefore, we exploit high-resolution terrestrial geo-archives as annually laminated (varved) lake sediments and tree rings. A crucial part of our approach is to date precisely and accurately our archives as main prerequisite for robust reconstructions of changes in the past.

Sediment coring at Lake Gosciaz, Poland
Sediment coring at Lake Meerfelder Maar, Eifel
Onset of the Younger Dryas in Lake Meerfelder Maar sediments
Monitoring platform Lake Tiefer See, Mecklenburg
Chatyr-Kul (Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan), Northern shore with outcrop of calcareous rocks (Silur-Devon)
Lisan Formation, Dead Sea
Siderite varves, Meerfelder Maar
Varved sediments from Lake Gosciaz, Poland
SEM image: calcite and a diatom frustule
Cross section of a pine (P. sylvestris) sample by Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM); 100x magnification
Cross section of Pinus strobus with intra-annual wood density variations and corresponding stable carbon isotope response
Cross section of an oak (Q. petraea) sample; reflected-light microscopy; 40x magnification
Tree rings in a stem disk of European Larch (Larix decidua Mill.)

Rapid climate changes in the past are considered natural experiments that enable us to gain deep insights into the causes and dynamics of such changes in order to be better prepared to future developments. Therefore, we use structure and chemical composition of seasonal layers (proxy data) that we calibrate with instrumental observation (monitoring). Our vision is to integrate long time series obtained from our high-resolution geo-archives and instrumental data to assessing present-day changes in a long-term context.

Nowaczyk, N.R., Liu, J., Frank, U., Arz, H.W. (2017 online): A high-resolution paleosecular variation record from Black Sea sediments indicating fast directional changes associated with low field intensities during marine isotope stage (MIS) 4 – Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 484, 15-29. | doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2017.12.009

Keywords: paleosecular variation, geomagnetic excursion, magnetostratigraphy, Black Sea, XRF-scanning

Abstract: A total of nine sediment cores recovered from the Archangelsky Ridge in the SE Black Sea were systematically subjected to intense paleo- and mineral magnetic analyses. Besides 16 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C ages available for another core from this area, dating was accomplished by correlation of short-term warming events during the last glacial monitored by high-resolution X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning as maxima in both Ca/Ti and K/Ti ratios in Black Sea sediments to the so-called 'Dansgaard-Oeschger events' recognized from Greenland ice cores. Thus, several hiatuses could be identified in the various cores during the last glacial/interglacial cycle. Finally, core sections documenting marine isotope stage (MIS) 4 at high resolution back to 69 ka were selected for detailed analyses. At 64.5 ka, according to obtained results from Black Sea sediments, the second deepest minimum in relative paleointensity during the past 69 ka occurred, with the Laschamp geomagnetic excursion at 41 ka being associated with the lowest field intensities. The field minimum during MIS 4 is associated with large declination swings beginning about 3 ka before the minimum. While a swing to 50°E is associated with steep inclinations (50-60°) according to the coring site at 42°N, the subsequent declination swing to 30°W is associated with shallow inclinations of down to 40°. Nevertheless, these large deviations from the direction of a geocentric axial dipole field (I=61°, D=0°) still can not yet be termed as 'excursional', since latitudes of corresponding virtual geomagnetic poles (VGP) only reach down to 51.5°N (120°E) and 61.5°N (75°W), respectively. However, these VGP positions at opposite sides of the globe are linked with VGP drift rates of up to 0.2° per year in between. These extreme secular variations might be the mid-latitude expression of a geomagnetic excursion with partly reversed inclinations found at several sites much further North in Arctic marine sediments between 69°N and 81°N. Thus, the pronounced intensity minimum at 64.5 ka and described directional variations might be the effect of a weak geomagnetic field with a multi-polar geometry in the middle of MIS 4.

Ott, F., Kramkowski, M., Wulf, S., Plessen, B., Serb, J., Tjallingii, R., Schwab, M. J., Slowinski, M., Brykala, D., Tyszkowski, S., Putyrskaya, V., Appelt, O., Błaszkiewicz, M., Brauer, A. (2017 online): Site-specific sediment responses to climate change during the last 140 years in three varved lakes in Northern Poland. - First Published September 13, 2017, Holocene. | doi:10.1177/0959683617729448

Keywords: Askja AD 1875 cryptotephra, climate change, ICLEA, north-central Poland, sediment response, varved lake sediments

Abstract: Accurate dating and unambiguous chronological correlation using cryptotephras provide a powerful tool to compare the varved sediment records of the lakes Głęboczek (JG), Czechowskie (JC) and Jelonek (JEL) (north-central Poland). For the last 140 years, micro-facies analyses and µ-XRF element scanning at seasonal resolution, as well as bulk elemental analyses (organic matter, carbonate) at sub-decadal to decadal resolution, were conducted for all three lakes records. All lakes are located in a region with low population density, and therefore, anthropogenic influences are negligible or only minor. The varve chronologies have been established independently for each record and were synchronized with the Askja AD 1875 cryptotephra. Comparison with monthly temperature data since 1870 and daily temperature data since 1951 revealed different responses of lake deposition to recent climate change. Varves are well preserved over the entire 140 years only at JG, while in the JC record two faintly varved intervals are intercalated and in the JEL record two non-varved intervals occur at the base and top of the profiles. These differences likely are due to variations in lake characteristics and their influence on lake-internal responses. JG is the smallest and best wind-sheltered lake, which favours varve preservation. JC’s attenuated sediment responses can likely be linked to lake productivity changes with respect to climate warming. JEL is lacking a direct sedimentological response to the observed temperature increase, which can be linked to lake size and water depth superimposing regional climate changes. Climate changes at the demise of the ‘Little Ice Age’ around 1900 and the recent warming since the 1980s are expressed in sediment proxies in the lakes with different response times and amplitudes. This detailed comparison study on three nearby lakes demonstrates the influence of local parameters such as lake and catchment size and water depth superimposed on more regional climate-driven changes.

Neugebauer, I., Wulf, S., Schwab, M. J., Serb, J., Plessen, B., Appelt, O., Brauer, A. (2017): Implications of S1 tephra findings in Dead Sea and Tayma palaeolake sediments for marine reservoir age estimation and palaeoclimate synchronisation. - Quaternary Science Reviews, 170, p. 269-275.| doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.06.020

Keywords: Early Holocene, Tephrochronology, S1 tephra, Palaeoclimate, Lake sediments, Eastern Mediterranean/Levant, NW Arabian Peninsula, Marine reservoir age

Abstract: Here we report on the first findings of a cryptotephra in the Holocene lacustrine sediment records of the Dead Sea and Tayma palaeolake (NW Arabian Peninsula). The major element glass composition of this rhyolitic tephra is identical to the distal ‘S1’ tephra layer identified in the Yammoûneh palaeolake (Lebanon), in a marine sediment record from the SE Levantine basin and in the Sodmein Cave archaeological site in Egypt. The S1 tephra corresponds to the early Holocene ‘Dikkartın’ dome eruption of the Erciyes Dağ volcano in central Anatolia (Turkey) and has been dated in the marine record at 8830 ± 140 cal yr BP. We present new age estimates of the S1 tephra based on radiocarbon dating of terrestrial plant remains and pollen concentrates revealing ages of 8939 ± 83 cal yr BP in the Dead Sea sediments and 9041 ± 254 cal yr BP in Tayma. The precise date from the Dead Sea allows refining the early Holocene marine reservoir age in the SE Levantine Sea to ca. 320 ± 50 years. Synchronisation of marine and terrestrial palaeoclimate records in the eastern Mediterranean region using the S1 tephra further suggests a time-transgressive expansion of the early Holocene humid period.

Head of Section

Achim Brauer
Section Head
Prof. Dr. Achim Brauer
Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution
Building C, Room 324
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1330


Christine Gerschke
Christine Gerschke
Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution
Building C, Room 325
14473 Potsdam
+49 331 288-1331