Reconstruction of Pleistocene Paleo-Hydrology and Climate Variations in Western Asia as Recorded in Speleothems from West-Central Iran
Abstract:Extending from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the northwest Indian Ocean and modern Iran, West Asia represents one of the most climatically dynamic regions in the northern hemisphere. The regional climate of West Asia is governed by interactions between the mid-latitude Westerlies, the Siberian Anticyclone and the Indian Ocean Summer Monsoon. In recent years, sparse records of Pleistocene climate variability have emerged from cave deposits (speleothems) in East Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and eastern Mediterranean. However, there remains a large gap in our understanding of abrupt and long-term climate variability in this region. We present for the first time δ18O data from speleothem and water samples that were collected from two cave systems in west-central Iran at similar latitudes, 60km apart: Qaleh Kord Cave (QKC, 35°47'50”N, 48°51'25"E) and Kataleh Khor Cave (KKC, 35°50'09"N, 48°09'41"E). U-Th geochronometry in two stalagmites from QKC yielded ages that range from 73,000 to 118,000 years B.P. Likewise, two stalagmites dated from KKC yielded ages 214,000-260,000 years B.P. and 300,000-500,000 years B.P. The analysis of additional speleothems from these caves should help to establish a continuous half million year multi-proxy record of δ18O variations, trace metal composition (Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca), and radiogenic Sr isotopes in these cave systems.
High-resolution δ18O analyses of QKC stalagmites show patterns of variation that can be attributed to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5a and 5b. Since both these caves sit at relatively high elevations (QKC: 2,160 masl, KKC: 1,695 masl) far from major seas (1,100km from Mediterranean Sea, 1,500km from North Indian Ocean), this record potentially reflects the synoptic interactions between the Westerlies and the Siberian Anticyclone during this time interval, as opposed to direct variations caused by sea level fluctuations. Measurements of drip water composition and modern environmental parameters (temperature, relative humidity and pCO2) inside the caves paired with δ18O analyses of fluid inclusions in the stalagmites will place additional constraints on multi-proxy reconstruction of paleo-records from these cave systems.