Paleoenvironmental studies and climate models demonstrate that fluvial runoff and moisture availability in the Caribbean hinterland react very sensitively to climatic variations. Late Pleistocene and Holocene climate records document pronounced dry and wet periods over tropical South America mainly caused by shifts of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). However, forcing mechanisms for changes in the ITCZ position remain controversial. Here we present high-resolution foraminiferal Ba/Ca and δ18Oseawater records from a core located within the Orinoco River outflow documenting abrupt hydrological changes in the Orinoco catchment area during the deglacial and Holocene. Our data, obtained from the surface-dwelling foraminifera Globigerinoides ruber (pink), show an abrupt increase in Ba/Ca ratios in the early Holocene, starting ∼600 yr after the end of the Younger Dryas (YD) cold interval at ca. 10.8 ka and suggesting a massive reorganization of moisture sources in northern South America. In contrast, the salinity dependent δ18Oseawater from the same samples shows a gradual decrease starting at the end of the YD. The offset of our Ba/Ca peak excludes meltwater release in conjunction with the northern Andean glacier retreat well before the end of the YD as a forcing mechanism. We suggest that the Ba/Ca record documents an abrupt increase in Ba-rich waters of a northern Andean source caused by the insolation-driven shift of the ITCZ and/or enhanced monsoon activity.

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