Hybrid insolation forcing of Pliocene monsoon dynamics in West Africa
Abstract. The Pliocene is regarded as a potential analogue for future climate with conditions generally warmer-than-today and higher-than-preindustrial atmospheric CO2 levels. Here we present the first orbitally resolved records of continental hydrology and vegetation changes from West Africa for two Pliocene time intervals (5.0–4.6 Ma, 3.6–3.0 Ma), which we compare with records from the last glacial cycle (Kuechler et al., 2013). Our results indicate that changes in local insolation alone are insufficient to explain the full degree of hydrologic variations. Generally two modes of interacting insolation forcings are observed: during eccentricity maxima, when precession was strong, the West African monsoon was driven by summer insolation; during eccentricity minima, when precession-driven variations in local insolation were minimal, obliquity-driven changes in the summer latitudinal insolation gradient became dominant. This hybrid monsoonal forcing concept explains orbitally controlled tropical climate changes, incorporating the forcing mechanism of latitudinal gradients for the Pliocene, which probably increased in importance during subsequent Northern Hemisphere glaciations.