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Paleoclimatic significance of late Quaternary eolian deposition on the Piedmont and High Plains, Central United States

Paleoclimatic significance of late Quaternary eolian deposition on the Piedmont and High Plains, Central United States

Global and Planetary Change 11(1-2): 35-55

Presently stabilized dune systems on the piedmont of eastern Colorado and adjacent High Plains have been repeatedly re-activated during the past 20,000 years. Radiocarbon and thermoluminescence age estimates indicate eolian activity late in the last glacial cycle ca. 20,000-12,000 yr B.P. and subsequent episodes of dune reactivation at ca. 6000, 4500 and 1000 yr B.P. Pollen analysis from aggraded buried soil A horizons show a shift from grasses and shrubs to goosefoot, a disturbance indicator. The association of maximum goosefoot levels with the coarsest part of the buried A horizon immediately prior to burial by eolian sand indicates a substantial reduction in grass and dominance of shrubs with onset of eolian activity. The vegetation change and eolian depositional sequence indicates a reduction in plant coverage with regional drought, possibly augmented by bison grazing and surface heating effects. We infer an increase in summer monsoonal precipitation between 13,000 and 9000 yr B.P. reflecting a heightened land-to-sea temperature gradient associated with rising summer solar-insolation values and a meltwater cooled Gulf of Mexico. Dune reactivation in the middle and late Holocene appears to be independent of summer insolation values, but rather reflects a small (<10 degrees ) easterly shift of the Bermuda High and western ridge aloft, difficult parameters to link to a cause and to resolve with climate models.

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Accession: 019654896

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DOI: 10.1016/0921-8181(94)00015-6

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