A 60,000-year record of hydrologic variability in the Central Andes from the hydrogen isotopic composition of leaf waxes in Lake Titicaca sediments

Kyrstin L. Fornace, Konrad A. Hughen, Timothy M. Shanahan, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Paul A. Baker, Sean P. Sylva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A record of the hydrogen isotopic composition of terrestrial leaf waxes (δDwax) in sediment cores from Lake Titicaca provides new insight into the precipitation history of the Central Andes and controls of South American Summer Monsoon (SASM) variability since the last glacial period. Comparison of the δDwax record with a 19-kyr δD record from the nearby Illimani ice core supports the interpretation that precipitation δD is the primary control on δDwax with a lesser but significant role for local evapotranspiration and other secondary influences on δDwax. The Titicaca δDwax record confirms overall wetter conditions in the Central Andes during the last glacial period relative to a drier Holocene. During the last deglaciation, abrupt δDwax shifts correspond to millennial-scale events observed in the high-latitude North Atlantic, with dry conditions corresponding to the Bølling-Allerød and early Holocene periods and wetter conditions during late glacial and Younger Dryas intervals. We observe a trend of increasing monsoonal precipitation from the early to the late Holocene, consistent with summer insolation forcing of the SASM, but similar hydrologic variability on precessional timescales is not apparent during the last glacial period. Overall, this study demonstrates the relative importance of high-latitude versus tropical forcing as a dominant control on glacial SASM precipitation variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-271
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Dec 15 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an MIT Presidential Fellowship and a WHOI Ocean and Climate Change Institute fellowship (KLF) and NSF grants DEB-0447281 (KAH), ATM-0502517 (KAH), and EAR-1338694 (PAB and SCF). We thank Eva Niedermeyer and one anonymous reviewer for comments that helped to improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Holocene
  • Lake titicaca
  • Last glacial period
  • Leaf wax
  • South american summer monsoon
  • Stable hydrogen isotopes

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • GLAD2


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