Late-Quaternary lowstands of lake Bosumtwi, Ghana: Evidence from high-resolution seismic-reflection and sediment-core data

Keely Brooks, Christopher A. Scholz, John W. King, John Peck, Jonathan T. Overpeck, James M. Russell, Philip Y.O. Amoako

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Results from the first high-resolution, single-channel seismic-reflection survey of tropical Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, and sedimentological data from a 14C-dated sediment piston core were used to revise and extend the basin's late-Quaternary lake level history. We report four seismic sequence boundaries and an exposure surface from a sediment core, which are interpreted as erosional surfaces formed at times of drastic low lake level. The youngest erosional surface occurs as much as 31 m below present lake level (bpll) and up to 0.7 m below the present sediment-water interface. This most recent unconformity observed in the seismic data is interpreted to be coeval with the basin-wide late-Holocene dry period between 0.5 and 1 cal ky BP (calendar years before present). Another exposure surface observed in a sediment core is based on an abrupt contact separating low density, wet, clay rich sediments from underlying high density, compact, silt-rich and rootlet-rich sediments, and is interpreted to have developed prior to 16.8 cal ky BP when the lake was ∼60 m bpll. Three older, erosional surfaces occur at depths of ∼92±3, 102±3, and 107±4 m bpll, suggesting numerous lowstands in Lake Bosumtwi during the late-Pleistocene. By extrapolation of average sedimentation rates (0.41 m/ky) from the upper ∼10.5 m of sediment, we estimate the ages of these older lowstands to be ∼65, ∼86, ∼108 cal ky BP. The lowstands of Lake Bosumtwi evidenced from the seismic and sediment core data are interpreted as a response to increased aridity in this part of the equatorial tropics and may correlate to other observed continent-wide shifts in African climate over the past 100 ky, and possibly to rapid climatic shifts observed at high latitudes. Determining the precise timing of these lowstands will ultimately reveal much about the drought dynamics of tropical and subtropical Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-249
Number of pages15
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005


  • Lake Bosumtwi
  • Lake-level change
  • Seismic-reflection data
  • Tropical paleoclimate
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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