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Holocene climatic records extracted from eolian deposits of the central Great Plains



Holocene climatic records extracted from eolian deposits of the central Great Plains



Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 30(7): 169



Much of the central Great Plains (Kansas and adjacent Nebraska) is loess-mantled, and some of this deposit is of Holocene age, thereby providing an upland sedimentary record of the epoch. Holocene loess, regionally the "Bignell", forms a discontinuous layer, being thickest in northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska, along the Missouri River valley to the east, and adjacent to major river valleys. Within the loess, periods of relative landscape stability (decreased dust flux rate) during the Holocene are represented by soils of varying degrees of development. Proxies of climate employed include susceptibility and other magnetic parameters, SIRA of carbon, and botanical microfossils (e.g., opal phytoliths), with age control coming from C14 and limited TL dating. The proxy record suggests gradual and/or low-magnitude climatic changes throughout the Holocene. Stratigraphically, Holocene loess has higher magnetic values than the Late Wisconsinan Peoria loess due to partial weathering associated with the low deposition rates (<1 mm/yr). Regionally, magnetic values exhibit a decrease from east to west, a reflection, at least in part, of reduced weathering intensity in response to lower precipitation. Magnetic data indicate lower levels of weathering (increased dust flux rate) during the middle Holocene, or Altithermal. Only incipient soil development appears in the middle Holocene, whereas better developed soils appear in the early and late Holocene; C14 ages on the soils occur at about 7500, 6000, and 3000 yr B. P. Significant change in vegetation cover is recorded by the stable carbon isotope record: while the Peoria loess yields values of -23 per mil, an indication of a C3 grass and tree (e.g., spruce) environment, Bignell loess values increase to -15 per mil and higher, i.e., a C4 grass environment. Pooid, or C3 grass phytoliths in the Peoria loess reach 80 percent or more, but decrease to as low as 20 percent in the Holocene. Although the Altithermal is not evident in the isotopic data, panicoid-type phytoliths (tall C4 grasses) do exhibit a minimum in the middle Holocene.

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