Lipid Biomarker Record Documents Hydroclimatic Variability of the Mississippi River Basin During the Common Era

Samuel E. Muñoz, Trevor J. Porter, Aleesha Bakkelund, Jesse Nusbaumer, Sylvia G. Dee, Brynnydd Hamilton, Liviu Giosan, Jessica E. Tierney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Floods and droughts in the Mississippi River basin are perennial hazards that cause severe economic disruption. Here we develop and analyze a new lipid biomarker record from Horseshoe Lake (Illinois, USA) to evaluate the climatic conditions associated with hydroclimatic extremes that occurred in this region over the last 1,800 years. We present geochemical proxy evidence of temperature and moisture variability using branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) and plant leaf wax hydrogen isotopic composition (δ2Hwax) and use isotope-enabled coupled model simulations to diagnose the controls on these proxies. Our data show pronounced warming during the Medieval era (CE 1000–1,600) that corresponds to midcontinental megadroughts. Severe floods on the upper Mississippi River basin also occurred during the Medieval era and correspond to periods of enhanced warm-season moisture. Our findings imply that projected increases in temperature and warm-season precipitation could enhance both drought and flood hazards in this economically vital region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GL087237
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 28 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank David Carter and Isabella Lopez for laboratory assistance and Ben Bates and three anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This project was supported by grants to S. E. M and L. G. (NSF EAR-1804107), T. J. P. (NSERC Discovery Grant), and S. G. D. (NOAA-NA18OAR4310427).

Publisher Copyright:
©2020. The Authors.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • brGDGT
  • Common Era
  • hydroclimate
  • leaf wax
  • lipid biomarker
  • paleoclimate

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • CAHO


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