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Abstract

We have analysed two Late Holocene records, each about 5 ka long, consisting of varved sediments deposited in the oxygen minimum zone off Pakistan (upper continental slope off Ormara and west of Karachi). Varve counting was checked by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating. Detailed lithofacies analysis, ultra-high-resolution X-ray fluorescence scanning, flux rates from sediment traps and the lamina-by-lamina-analysis of a 5 year record (1993-1998) support our interpretation of the annual character of the laminae. Although the pelagic material is deposited throughout the year, most of it is apparently laid down during the high-productivity period of the late summer monsoon. During the winter (mainly mid-December to February-March) mainly light-coloured detrital material (siliciclastic material and reworked carbonate flour) is deposited, probably by river flood events. Event deposits include turbid-plume or suspensate deposits (light grey homogeneous to graded silty clay layers), which are being laid down at decadal or shorter intervals; they are explained by episodically strong river floods after heavy rains transporting mud-charged waters to the narrow shelf and onto the steep continental slope. Medium grey or reddish grey, graded and laminated silt turbidites originated from less frequent, unchannelized, low-density turbidity currents. In general, periods with thin varves (generally correlated with rare turbidites) are correlated with minima of detrital element ratios (TiO2/Al2O3, Zr/Al2O3, K2O/Al2O3), especially in Period I (c. 5600-4700 a bp), suggesting a climate with reduced precipitation and river runoff (possibly winter monsoon dominated). Period II (4700-2600 a bp) is characterized by comparatively thick varves documenting a generally wet period (with possibly summer monsoon domination). During Period III (2600-1000 a bp) a gradual thinning of varves and a decrease of turbidite abundance (thickness) per century is interpreted as a gradual decline of precipitation and river runoff leading finally to dry conditions from 1600 to 1000 a bp. The sequence of cycles detected by autocorrelation and standard Fourier analysis seems to contain a large proportion of multiples of the lunar perigee cycle (4.425 a, 8.85 a) and the lunar (half) nodal cycle (9.3 a, 18.6 a). Our test for cyclicity in the series of varve thickness (varve cycles) and of abundance of turbidites (turbidite cycles) detected prominent high-frequency cycles. Some cycles of varve thickness match the cyclicity of turbidite frequency. We also detected the presence of a 1470 a cycle, previously reported from the glacial-age Greenland ice record.

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