A 14,000-Year Oxygen Isotope Record from Diatom Silica in Two Alpine Lakes on Mt. Kenya

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Science  22 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5525, pp. 2307-2310
DOI: 10.1126/science.1059612

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Oxygen isotopes are sensitive tracers of climate change in tropical regions. Abrupt shifts of up to 18 per mil in the oxygen isotope ratio of diatom silica have been found in a 14,000-year record from two alpine lakes on Mt. Kenya. Interpretation of tropical-montane isotope records is controversial, especially concerning the relative roles of precipitation and temperature. Here, we argue that Holocene variations in δ18O are better explained by lake moisture balance than by temperature-induced fractionation. Episodes of heavy convective precipitation dated ∼11,100 to 8600, 6700 to 5600, 2900 to 1900, and <1300 years before the present were linked to enhanced soil erosion, neoglacial ice advances, and forest expansion on Mt. Kenya.

  • * Present address: Scottish Agricultural College, Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries DG1 4SZ, UK.

  • Present address: Department of Geography, University of Newcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.

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