Paleoclimatic variations in West Africa from a record of late Pleistocene and Holocene lake level stands of Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana

Timothy M. Shanahan, Jonathan T. Overpeck, C. Winston Wheeler, J. Warren Beck, Jeffrey S. Pigati, Michael R. Talbot, Christopher A. Scholz, John Peck, John W. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


A detailed investigation of geomorphological evidence of paleoshorelines and exposed stratigraphic sections of lake deposits, combined with a chronology based on radiocarbon dated charcoal and in-situ 14C dating of wave polished bedrock, provide important new constraints on lake level changes of Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana. Thick sequences of laminated silts, alternating with transgressive sands and deltaic gravels, attest to a long history of climatically controlled lake level variations. The post-glacial rise in lake level began sometime after 16.3 ka, reached stable levels first at 14.5 ± 0.6 ka and then rose again after ca. 14.3 ka. A significant lake level regression spanned the interval from 12.6 ± 0.3 to 11.6 ± 0.5 ka, synchronous with the Younger Dryas. Deep lake conditions were reestablished after ca. 11 ka, at which time the lake overtopped the crater. Overflow continued until 8.8 ± 0.5 ka, when another significant but short-lived regression occurred. Deep, but probably not overflowing conditions were again reestablished by > 7.2 ± 0.3 ka and continued until around 3.2 ± 0.1 ka, when lake level dropped precipitously. Multicentury late Holocene highstands occurred at 2.2 ± 0.1 and 1.7 ± 0.2 ka, although these were significantly lower than those registered in the late glacial and early Holocene. The timing of late glacial events is similar to those recorded elsewhere in Africa and the higher latitudes, and likely reflects the dominant control of high latitude northern hemisphere conditions on the African tropics during the times of large northern hemisphere ice sheets. Mid- to late-Holocene variations appear to be less coupled with changes across Africa and elsewhere, suggesting that regional forcing may be more important during warmer periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-302
Number of pages16
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 8 2006


  • Climate oscillation
  • Lake level
  • Last glacial period
  • Monsoon precipitation
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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