Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Clim. Past, 10, 1381–1399, 2014

Special issue: Initial results from lake El'gygytgyn, western Beringia: first...

Clim. Past, 10, 1381–1399, 2014

Research article 23 Jul 2014

Research article | 23 Jul 2014

Pliocene to Pleistocene climate and environmental history of Lake El'gygytgyn, Far East Russian Arctic, based on high-resolution inorganic geochemistry data

V. Wennrich1, P. S. Minyuk2, V. Borkhodoev2, A. Francke1, B. Ritter1, N. R. Nowaczyk3, M. A. Sauerbrey1, J. Brigham-Grette4, and M. Melles1 V. Wennrich et al.
  • 1University of Cologne, Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Cologne, Germany
  • 2Russian Academy of Sciences, Northeast Interdisciplinary Scientific Research Institute, Magadan, Russia
  • 3Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 4University of Massachusetts, Department of Geosciences, USA

Abstract. The 3.6 Ma sediment record of Lake El'gygytgyn/NE Russia, Far East Russian Arctic, represents the longest continuous climate archive of the terrestrial Arctic. Its elemental composition as determined by X-ray fluorescence scanning exhibits significant changes since the mid-Pliocene caused by climate-driven variations in primary production, postdepositional diagenetic processes, and lake circulation as well as weathering processes in its catchment.

During the mid- to late Pliocene, warmer and wetter climatic conditions are reflected by elevated Si / Ti ratios, indicating enhanced diatom production in the lake. Prior to 3.3 Ma, this signal is overprinted by intensified detrital input from the catchment, visible in maxima of clastic-related proxies, such as K. In addition, calcite formation in the early lake history points to enhanced Ca flux into the lake caused by intensified weathering in the catchment. A lack of calcite deposition after ca. 3.3 Ma is linked to the development of permafrost in the region triggered by cooling in the mid-Pliocene.

After ca. 3.0 Ma the elemental data suggest a gradual transition to Pleistocene-style glacial–interglacial cyclicity. In the early Pleistocene, the cyclicity was first dominated by variations on the 41 kyr obliquity band but experienced a change to a 100 kyr eccentricity dominance during the middle Pleistocene transition (MPT) at ca. 1.2–0.6 Ma. This clearly demonstrates the sensitivity of the Lake El'gygytgyn record to orbital forcing.

A successive decrease of the baseline levels of the redox-sensitive Mn / Fe ratio and magnetic susceptibility between 2.3 and 1.8 Ma reflects an overall change in the bottom-water oxygenation due to an intensified occurrence of pervasive glacial episodes in the early Pleistocene. The coincidence with major changes in the North Pacific and Bering Sea paleoceanography at ca. 1.8 Ma implies that the change in lake hydrology was caused by a regional cooling in the North Pacific and the western Beringian landmass and/or changes in the continentality. Further increases in total organic carbon and total nitrogen content after ca. 1.6 Ma are attributed to reduced organic matter decay in the sediment during prolonged anoxic periods. This points to more extensive periods of perennial ice coverage, and thus, to a progressive shifts towards more intense peak glacial periods.

In the course of the Pleistocene glacial–interglacial sequence eight so-called "super-interglacials" occur. Their exceptionally warm conditions are reflected by extreme Si / Ti peaks accompanied by lows in Ti, K, and Fe, thus indicating extraordinary high lake productivity.