A 130ka reconstruction of rainfall on the Bolivian Altiplano

C. J. Placzek, J. Quade, P. J. Patchett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


New efforts to link climate reconstructions from shoreline deposits and sediment cores yield an improved and more detailed lake history from the Bolivian Altiplano. On the Southern Altiplano, 10 lake oscillations have been identified from this new unified chronology, each coincident with North Atlantic cold events such as Heinrich Events H5, H2, H1, and the Younger Dryas. By coupling this new lake history to a hydrologic budget model we are able to evaluate precipitation variability on the Southern Bolivian Altiplano over the last 130. ka. These modeling efforts underscore the relative aridity of the Altiplano during the rare and small lake cycles occurring between 80 and 20. ka, when colder temperatures combined with little or no change in rainfall produced smaller paleolakes. Relative aridity between 80 and 20. ka contrasts with the immense Tauca lake cycle (18.1-14.1. ka), which was six times larger than modern Lake Titicaca and coincided with Heinrich Event 1. This improved paleolake record from the Southern Altiplano reveals a strong link between central Andean climate and Atlantic sea-surface temperature gradients during the late Pleistocene, even though today rainfall variability is driven mostly by Pacific sea-surface temperature anomalies associated with El Niño/Southern Oscillation. However, not all Heinrich Events appear to result in lake expansions, most conspicuously during the global cold interval between 80 and 20. ka when the Altiplano and Amazon Basin were relatively arid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-108
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


  • Bolivia
  • Heinrich events
  • Intertropical convergence zone
  • North Atlantic
  • Paleolake
  • Uranium-thorium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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