Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
Research article
18 Jan 2016
Research article |  | 18 Jan 2016

Hydroclimatic variability in the Levant during the early last glacial (∼  117–75 ka) derived from micro-facies analyses of deep Dead Sea sediments

I. Neugebauer, M. J. Schwab, N. D. Waldmann, R. Tjallingii, U. Frank, E. Hadzhiivanova, R. Naumann, N. Taha, A. Agnon, Y. Enzel, and A. Brauer

Abstract. The new sediment record from the deep Dead Sea basin (ICDP core 5017-1) provides a unique archive for hydroclimatic variability in the Levant. Here, we present high-resolution sediment facies analysis and elemental composition by micro-X-ray fluorescence (µXRF) scanning of core 5017-1 to trace lake levels and responses of the regional hydroclimatology during the time interval from ca. 117 to 75 ka, i.e. the transition between the last interglacial and the onset of the last glaciation. We distinguished six major micro-facies types and interpreted these and their alterations in the core in terms of relative lake level changes. The two end-member facies for highest and lowest lake levels are (a) up to several metres thick, greenish sediments of alternating aragonite and detrital marl laminae (aad) and (b) thick halite facies, respectively. Intermediate lake levels are characterised by detrital marls with varying amounts of aragonite, gypsum or halite, reflecting lower-amplitude, shorter-term variability. Two intervals of pronounced lake level drops occurred at  ∼  110–108 ± 5 and  ∼  93–87 ± 7 ka. They likely coincide with stadial conditions in the central Mediterranean (Melisey I and II pollen zones in Monticchio) and low global sea levels during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5d and 5b. However, our data do not support the current hypothesis of an almost complete desiccation of the Dead Sea during the earlier of these lake level low stands based on a recovered gravel layer. Based on new petrographic analyses, we propose that, although it was a low stand, this well-sorted gravel layer may be a vestige of a thick turbidite that has been washed out during drilling rather than an in situ beach deposit. Two intervals of higher lake stands at  ∼  108–93 ± 6 and  ∼  87–75 ± 7 ka correspond to interstadial conditions in the central Mediterranean, i.e. pollen zones St. Germain I and II in Monticchio, and Greenland interstadials (GI) 24+23 and 21 in Greenland, as well as to sapropels S4 and S3 in the Mediterranean Sea. These apparent correlations suggest a close link of the climate in the Levant to North Atlantic and Mediterranean climates during the time of the build-up of Northern Hemisphere ice shields in the early last glacial period.

Short summary
Micro-facies changes and elemental variations in deep Dead Sea sediments are used to reconstruct relative lake level changes for the early last glacial period. The results indicate a close link of hydroclimatic variability in the Levant to North Atlantic-Mediterranean climates during the time of the build-up of Northern Hemisphere ice shields. First petrographic analyses of gravels in the deep core question the recent hypothesis of a Dead Sea dry-down at the end of the last interglacial.