Abstract

Dune fields and loess deposits of the Great Plains of North America contain stratigraphic records of eolian activity that can be used to extend the short observational record of drought. We present a 10,000 yr reconstruction of dune activity and dust production in the central Great Plains region, based on 95 optically stimulated luminescence ages. The integration of data from both eolian sand and loess is an important new aspect of this record. Clusters of ages define episodes of extensive eolian activity, which we interpret as a response to frequent severe drought, at 1.0–0.7 ka and 2.3–4.5 ka (with peaks centered on 2.5 and 3.8 ka); sustained eolian activity occurred from 9.6 to 6.5 ka. Parts of this record may be consistent with hypotheses linking Holocene drought to sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, or to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon, but the record as a whole is difficult to reconcile with any of these hypotheses.

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