A magnetic mineral record of Late Quaternary tropical climate variability from Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana

John A. Peck, Ryan R. Green, Tim Shanahan, John W. King, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Christopher A. Scholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We report magnetic hysteresis results from sediment cores obtained from Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana. As a hydrologically closed basin, the water budget of Lake Bosumtwi is extremely sensitive to changes in the precipitation/ evapotranspiration balance. Lake Bosumtwi lies in the path of the seasonal migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ); hence, the lake is ideally situated to study monsoon variability in West Africa. Five distinctive magnetic mineral zones (A-E) were identified in the 11-m-long sediment cores that span the last 26,000 calendar years. Prior to 12 calendar (cal) ka, low concentrations of multidomain, high-coercivity magnetic minerals are present. Three prominent shifts towards very high concentrations of high-coercivity iron sulfide (greigite) magnetic minerals are centered at 12,470, 17,290, and 22,600 calendar years during the last glacial period (magnetic zones D1-3). Between 12 and 3.2 cal ka, there is an abrupt shift to moderately high concentrations of mixed multidomain and single-domain, low-coercivity minerals and an organic-rich sapropel lithology. Since 3.2 cal ka, the magnetic mineral parameters reveal a shift to increased amounts of high-coercivity magnetic minerals. These magnetic mineral zones document tropical climate variability on a variety of temporal scales. Glacial age sediments have a high-coercivity magnetic mineralogy due to increased aeolian dust transport from the Sahel to Lake Bosumtwi as well as postdepositional reductive diagenesis. During the last glacial period, the increased strength of Harmattan and North African continental trade winds, the southward depression of the ITCZ, and weakened summer monsoon strength resulted in increased regional aridity and greater dust flux out of Sahel source regions. The greigite-bearing D magnetic zones correspond to brief lowstands in the level of Lake Bosumtwi and likely represent periods of intensified aridity in West Africa. The D magnetic zones closely resemble the timing and duration of Heinrich events and suggest a hemispheric-scale climatic coupling between the tropics and poles. The well-documented African humid period (AHP) is characterized by abrupt shifts in magnetic parameters between 12 and 3.2 cal ka. Dust flux to Lake Bosumtwi is inferred to be very low during this humid interval due to the strengthening of the summer monsoon. Since 3.2 cal ka, the magnetic mineral parameters suggest increased aridity as compared to the AHP. This work demonstrates that the magnetic properties of Lake Bosumtwi sediment are a sensitive recorder of abrupt climate change of global significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-57
Number of pages21
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 2 2004


  • Climatic change
  • Heinrich events
  • Paleolimnology
  • Rock magnetism
  • West Africa
  • Younger Dryas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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