Late Quaternary TEX86 paleotemperatures from the world’s largest desert lake, Lake Turkana, Kenya

Amy Morrissey, Christopher A. Scholz, James M. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Wetter climatic conditions prevailed across northern and Equatorial Africa during the terminal Pleistocene until the middle Holocene, a climate event known as the “African Humid Period” (AHP). Although hydrologic changes during this period are well-known, very few records of temperature are available for evaluating the mechanisms and dynamics of climate change during the AHP across tropical Africa. To quantify changes in temperature during the onset and termination of the AHP, the TEX86 temperature proxy was used to generate a 14,000 year record of the surface temperature of Lake Turkana. This biomarker and related measures have been used to reconstruct regional and high-latitude paleotemperatures from the oceans and other continental systems, including other large African lakes. Although Lake Turkana’s climate and hydrology are very different from other large African lakes, our reconstruction exhibits a temperature history that shares a number of climatic trends with previous reconstructions. The TEX86 temperatures from Lake Turkana from 14 to 0.4 ka range from 24.3 to 28.6 °C, with a gradual decrease in temperature from early to late Holocene. This cooling roughly follows northern hemisphere summer insolation, similar to the trend observed in Lake Victoria and other regional records. However, the record from Turkana contains many abrupt temperature shifts not seen in other large lakes in the region. Multi-century-scale fluctuations persist through most of the record, and can be attributed to periods of lake mixing. Larger temperature perturbations are likely associated with changes in evaporation and cloud cover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-117
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • East Africa
  • Lake Turkana
  • Paleotemperature
  • Quaternary paleoclimatology
  • TEX86

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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