The Last Interglacial in the Levant: Perspective from the ICDP Dead Sea Deep Drill Core
Abstract:Sediments recovered by the ICDP Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project provide a new perspective on the climate history of the Levant during the last interglacial period MIS5. They record the extreme impacts of an intense interglacial characterized by stronger insolation, warmer mean global temperatures, and higher sea-levels than the Holocene. Results show both extreme hyper-aridity during MIS5e, including an unprecedented drawdown of Dead Sea water levels, and the impacts of a strong precession-driven African monsoon responsible for a major sapropel event (S5) in the eastern Mediterranean.
Hyper-arid conditions at the beginning of MIS5e prior to S5 (~132-128 ka) are evidenced by halite deposition, indicating declining Dead Sea lake levels. Surprisingly, the hyper-arid phase is interrupted during the MIS5e peak (~128-120 ka), coinciding with the S5 sapropel, which is characterized by a thick (23 m) section of silty detritus (without any halite) whose provenance indicates southern-sourced wetness in the watershed. Upon weakening of the S5 monsoon (~120-115 ka), the return of extreme aridity resulted in an unprecedented lake level drawdown, reflected by massive salt deposition, and followed by a sediment hiatus (~115-100 ka) indicating prolonged low lake level. The resumption of section follows classic Levant patterns with more wetness during cooler MIS5b and hyper-aridity during warmer MIS5a.
The ICDP core provides the first evidence for a direct linkage between an intense precession-driven African monsoon and wetness at the high subtropical latitude (~30N) of the Dead Sea watershed. Combined with coeval deposition of Negev speleothems and travertines, and calcitification of Red Sea corals, the evidence indicates a wet climatic corridor that could facilitate homo sapiens migration out of Africa during the MIS5e peak. In addition, the MIS 5e hyper-arid intervals may provide an important cautionary analogue for the impact of future warming on regional water resources.