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Reproducibility and utility of dune luminescence chronologies

Leighton, Carly L., Thomas, David S.G., Bailey, Richard M.
Earth-science reviews 2014 v.129 pp. 24-39
case studies, climate change, data collection, luminescence, United Arab Emirates
Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of dune deposits has increasingly been used as a tool to investigate the response of aeolian systems to environmental change. Amalgamation of individual dune accumulation chronologies has been employed in order to distinguish regional from local geomorphic responses to change. However, advances in dating have produced chronologies of increasing complexity. In particular, questions regarding the interpretation of dune ages have been raised, including over the most appropriate method to evaluate the significance of suites of OSL ages when local ‘noisy’ and discontinuous records are combined. In this paper, these issues are reviewed and the reproducibility of dune chronologies is assessed. OSL ages from two cores sampled from the same dune in the northeast Rub' al Khali, United Arab Emirates, are presented and compared, alongside an analysis of previously published dune ages dated to within the last 30ka. Distinct periods of aeolian activity and preservation are identified, which can be tied to regional climatic and environmental changes. This case study is used to address fundamental questions that are persistently asked of dune dating studies, including the appropriate spatial scale over which to infer environmental and climatic change based on dune chronologies, whether chronological hiatuses can be interpreted, how to most appropriately combine and display datasets, and the relationship between geomorphic and palaeoclimatic signals. Chronological profiles reflect localised responses to environmental variability and climatic forcing, and amalgamation of datasets, with consideration of sampling resolution, is required; otherwise local factors are always likely to dominate. Using net accumulation rates to display ages may provide an informative approach of analysing and presenting dune OSL chronologies less susceptible to biases resulting from insufficient sampling resolution.