Hydrological changes in western Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan) during the Holocene as inferred from a palaeolimnological study in lake Son Kul
The hydrology of western Central Asia is highly sensitive to climatic perturbations. In order to understand its long-term variability and to infer linkages between precipitation and atmospheric and oceanic systems, we conducted a thorough sedimentary and geochemical study on a composite core retrieved in lake Son Kul (central Kyrgyzstan). A multi-proxy approach was conducted on lake sediments based on grain size analyses, magnetic susceptibility, total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN) and carbon and oxygen isotope analyses on bulk and biogenic materials (ostracoda and molluscs shells) at a resolution equivalent to ca 40 years, aiming to characterise the sequence of palaeolimnological changes in Son Kul.As indicated by δ18O record of bulk carbonates, mainly consisting of aragonite, the Holocene hydrological balance was negative during most of time, suggesting an excess of evaporation (E) over precipitation (P). Limnological conditions fluctuated rapidly before 5000 cal yr BP indicating significant changes in regional hydrology and climate. In particular, the long-term negative hydrological balance was impeded by several short stages with marked increase of precipitation, lasting several decades to a few centuries (e.g., 8300-8200, 6900-6700, 6300-6100, 5500-5400, 5300-5200 and 3100-3000 cal yr BP). Precipitation changes as inferred from δ18O data are also documented by increased minerogenic detritus and higher TOC. We propose that the seasonal pattern of precipitation varied transiently in western Central Asia during the Holocene, although evaporation changes may also account for the rapid changes observed in δ18O data. When the annual water balance was less critical (P ≤ E), the excess of water might be ascribed to increased precipitation during cold seasons mainly because winter precipitation has more negative δ18O than its summer equivalent. Conversely, when the annual water balance is negative (P ≪ E), the moisture was mainly delivered during the warm season, as between 5000 and 2000 cal yr BP. Our results thus imply that moisture sources could have changed as well during the Holocene. Moisture was delivered as today mainly during summer from the extended Caspian-Aral Basin and eastern Mediterranean, although Arctic and even North Atlantic seas might be important moisture sources when seasonal precipitation was dominated by winter precipitation. We hypothesise that warming Arctic and North Atlantic seas were important for the North Hemisphere circulation during the cold season.