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Terrestrial response to Milankovitch-scale climate change – multi-proxy lithological evidence from the Early and Middle Pleistocene of eastern England

By Jonathan R. Lee, James Rose, Brian S.P. Moorlock, Ian Candy, Richard Jo Hamblin and Rene W. Barendregt


The development of the Oxygen Isotope Record from deep ocean sediments has revolutionised our understanding of Quaternary climate change as well as providing a global chronological framework that all scientists can work to. One of the challenges currently facing Quaternary geologists is recognising the climatic complexity shown by the deep ocean record within the more fragmentary terrestrial and continental shelf sequences. This is especially problematic within older Quaternary sequences where the temporal resolution of the climate signal is well beyond the limits of geochronological dating techniques. An alternative approach for developing stratigraphic and chronological models for older Quaternary sequences is to use the geological record to examine the response of terrestrial systems and processes to regional and global drivers of terrestrial change such as climate change. The extensive sedimentary sequences of Eastern England provide an ideal opportunity to examine this approach by assessing the response of terrestrial systems and processes relative to the progressive intensification of the global climate signal that occurred during the Early and early Middle Pleistocene (c.2.6–0.5Ma). Sediments from each of the major river systems (the Bytham, Thames and Ancaster rivers) of eastern and central England possess a statistically distinctive lithological assemblage of heavy minerals and clast lithologies, and these lithological signatures can also be observed within stratigraphically equivalent shallow marine and coastal sediment sequences (the Norwich and Wroxham ‘Crags’). Variations in the lithological composition of these sediment bodies reveal that terrestrial processes in the study region have evolved over time, and this has caused regional-scale changes\ud in the dynamics of the river systems as they adjust to changes in sediment budget and discharge. The temporal pattern of drainage evolution over the course of the Early and early Middle Pleistocene, can in-turn be linked to Milankovitch-scale climate change as it this that controls seasonality and heat – two of the primary drivers of terrestrial\ud processes

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.quaint.2007.04.001
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