Main content area

A 2700calyr BP extreme flood event revealed by sediment accumulation in Amazon floodplains

Moreira-Turcq, P., Turcq, B., Moreira, L.S., Amorim, M., Cordeiro, R.C., Guyot, J.-L.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2014 v.415 pp. 175-182
climatic factors, color, floodplains, floods, lakes, sediments, solar radiation, stratigraphy, summer, Amazon River, Amazonia, South America
Climatic conditions are one of the most important factors affecting hydrological processes in fluvial systems. Higher discharges are responsible for higher erosion, greater transport, and also higher deposition. Consequently, sediment accumulation in Amazonia floodplain river-connected lakes can be directly related to hydrological patterns of the Amazon River mainstream. In this context, we analyzed five sediment cores taken in two floodplain systems situated in the lower Amazon River, to investigate sediment accumulation patterns during the Holocene. Our records show abrupt fluctuations in sedimentation rates in lakes that can reach more than 2cm/yr during some periods. We find that in all cores, sediment stratigraphy is characterized by packages of sediments of uniform age, which are typically 10–80cm thick and present a variegated color. The 14C age of the upper package is about 2700calyr BP. During this abrupt event, sediment accumulation rates in floodplain lakes can be at least 200 times higher than those of “normal” periods. This sedimentation event is interpreted as being the consequence of one or several successive extreme floods. The 2700calyr BP event has been also observed in other sites in South America and other regions in the world, although different impacts can be observed in each system. This event probably corresponds to a conjunction of favorable conditions for extreme Amazon discharge associated with the Middle to Late Holocene increase of austral summer insolation and shifts of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) from northern to southern positions. In this context, a marked negative peak in solar irradiance at 2700calyrs BP seems to have provoked cooling on the continents and a southward shift of the ITCZ associated with a probable reduction in the Atlantic Meridian Overturning Circulation.