Plio-Pleistocene Temperature Variability in the Terrestrial Arctic: Insights from Branched Glycerol Dialkyl Glycerol Tetraethers

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 5:15 PM
Isla S. Castañeda, Jeffrey Salacup, Greg de Wet, M. Helen Habicht, Benjamin Andrew Keisling, Victoria Phu, Joanne Johnson, Stephen Lukas, Nicholas Lyons and Julie Brigham-Grette, UMass Amherst-Geosciences, Amherst, MA, United States
Drill coring at Lake El’gygytgyn (Far East Russia) in 2009 retrieved a 3.6 Ma long sediment core, which is presently the oldest continuous sedimentary record available from the terrestrial Arctic. This unique Plio-Pleistocene record allows for the response of the Arctic to global climate events under a variety of different boundary conditions to be examined. Here we present results of ongoing organic geochemical analyses of Lake El’gygytgyn sediments focusing on the mid-Pliocene warm period, the Plio-Pleistocene transition, the mid-Brunhes transition, and warm Pleistocene interglacial periods including Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5, 9, 11, 19 and 31. Despite the ultra-oligotrophic nature of Lake El'gygytgyn and the generally low sedimentary total organic carbon (TOC) content, we find abundant branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) throughout the entire record and use the methylation and cyclization indices of branched tetraethers (MBT and CBT, respectively) to reconstruct past temperature (Weijers et al., 2007). We hypothesize that the majority of brGDGTs are produced in the lake during the brief summer period of ice free conditions and that MBT/CBT likely reflects a warm season temperature. Trends noted in the MBT/CBT record are in close agreement with pollen-based temperature estimates throughout the entire core. For example, we note a dramatic ~6°C cooling associated with the mid-Pliocene M2 event and thus far MIS 31 has emerged as the warmest period at Lake El’gygytgyn during the past ~ 1 Ma, corroborating the pollen data. Interestingly, a number of abrupt and relatively short-lived cooling events of 2 to 4°C are noted within several of the particularly warm interglacial periods (e.g. MIS 5e, MIS 11 and MIS 31) and are the subject of ongoing investigation. Overall, application of the MBT/CBT paleothermometer to Lake El’gygytgyn sediments is a highly promising technique for generating a Plio-Pleistocene temperature record from the continental Arctic although a site specific calibration is required before absolute temperature can be reconstructed with confidence from brGDGTs.