Articles | Volume 9, issue 5
Research article
26 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 26 Sep 2013

Major dust events in Europe during marine isotope stage 5 (130–74 ka): a climatic interpretation of the "markers"

D.-D. Rousseau, M. Ghil, G. Kukla, A. Sima, P. Antoine, M. Fuchs, C. Hatté, F. Lagroix, M. Debret, and O. Moine

Abstract. At present, major dust storms are occurring at mid-latitudes in the Middle East and Asia, as well as at low latitudes in Northern Africa and in Australia. Western Europe, though, does not experience such dramatic climate events, except for some African dust reaching it from the Sahara. This modern situation is of particular interest, in the context of future climate projections, since the present interglacial is usually interpreted, in this context, as an analog of the warm Eemian interval. European terrestrial records show, however, major dust events during the penultimate interglacial and early glacial. These events are easily observed in loess records by their whitish-color deposits, which lie above and below dark chernozem paleosols in Central European records of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 age.

We describe here the base of the Dolni Vestonice (DV) loess sequence, Czech Republic, as the reference of such records. The dust is deposited during intervals that are characterized by poor vegetation – manifested by high δ13C values and low magnetic susceptibility – while the fine sand and clay in the deposits shows grain sizes that are clearly different from the overlying pleniglacial loess deposits. Some of these dust events have been previously described as "Markers" or Marker Silts (MS) by one of us (G. Kukla), and are dated at about 111–109 ka and 93–92 ka, with a third and last one slightly visible at about 75–73 ka. Other events correspond to the loess material of Kukla's cycles, and are described as eolian silts (ES); they are observed in the same DV sequence and are dated at about 106–105 ka, 88–86 ka, and 78.5–77 ka. These dates are determined by considering the OSL ages with their errors measured on the studied sequence, and the comparison with Greenland ice-core and European speleothem chronologies.

The fine eolian deposits mentioned above, MS as well as ES, correspond to short events that lasted about 2 ka; they are synchronous with re-advances of the polar front over the North Atlantic, as observed in marine sediment cores. These deposits also correlate with important changes observed in European vegetation. Some ES and MS events appear to be coeval with significant dust peaks recorded in the Greenland ice cores, while others are not. This decoupling between the European eolian and Greenland dust depositions is of considerable interest, as it differs from the fully glacial situation, in which the Eurasian loess sedimentation mimics the Greenland dust record. Previous field observations supported an interpretation of MS events as caused by continental dust storms. We show here, by a comparison with speleothems of the same age found in the northern Alps, that different atmospheric-circulation modes seem to be responsible for the two categories of dust events, MS vs. ES.