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- The use of 10Be surface exposure dating of erratic boulders in the reconstruction of the late Pleistocene glaciation history of mountainous regions, with examples from Nepal and Central Asia (2004)
- Be-10 surface exposure dating (SED) of erratic boulders is an innovative approach in Quaternary geochronology. It proves to be an excellent tool for the reconstruction of the glacial history of mountainous regions, which is an important part of climate change research. In the course of this work, I have 1) installed the analytical procedure to extract in-situ produced Be-10 from quartz-bearing rock surface samples in the laboratory of the Institute of Soil Science and Soil Geography at the University of Bayreuth; 2) developed and calibrated the program TEBESEA for quick calculation of Be-10 surface exposure ages with fully propagated errors, thereby evaluating the existing procedures; 3) deduced a new interpretation scheme for exposure age distributions from several stratigraphically related moraines in an area; 4) provided 37 new Be-10 exposure ages for the Nepal Himalaya, complementing earlier soil geographic studies in the Langtang Valley and the Macha Khola Valley; and finally 5) provided 108 new Be-10 exposure ages for the Pamir, and the Alay- and Turkestan Ranges, defining a new glacial chronology for Central Asia. The analytical procedure used to extract Be-10 from quartz-bearing rocks and to prepare it for measurement closely followed the one established at the ETH Zurich, where all Be-10 measurements have been done. The accuracy of the analytical work in Bayreuth was confirmed by preparation of five calibration samples from the Koefels landslide, Oetz Valley, Austria. The traditional scaling system of Lal (1991) as modified by Stone (2000) still proves to be the most suitable one to be used in Be-10 exposure age calculations. For this procedure, I have calibrated a total standard production rate at sea level, high latitude of 5.35 ± 0.15 atoms/(g a), using a contribution of capture of slow negative muons of 1.2%, and including all possible corrections. The altitude dependency of Be-10 production used in the scaling systems of Dunai (2001) and Desilets & Zreda (2003) is as yet not convincing, given the existing calibration data, but suggests that ages calculated for sites above 2000-3000 m a.s.l. in High Asia may be overestimates. Detailed error propagation shows that the uncertainties of Be-10 surface exposure ages at present are dominated by the errors of the scaling factor, the erosion rate, and the tectonic uplift rate. As long as surface erosion and tectonic uplift rates cannot be constrained to within 10%, however, exposure ages older than 30-40 ka have uncertainties of 20% or more and can be no more than rough approximations. For exposure age distributions from a set of stratigraphically related moraines, a new interpretation scheme is presented, which is able to detect ages older than the deposition age of the moraine (Be-10 inheritance), and to interpret age clusters younger than the deposition age, which may be synchronous on several moraines (phases of regionally enhanced surface activity). In the Nepal Himalaya, glacier advances in the Macha Khola Valley have occurred 70-100, 20-23, 11-12 and around 3 cal. ka B.P. Glacier advances in the Langtang Valley are dated to 14-15, 8-9 and ~3.5 cal. ka B.P. Late Pleistocene and Holocene glacial activity in the Nepal Himalaya seems to be controlled by the Indian monsoon rather than the westerly circulation. Only in the MIS 2, the westerly jetstream appears to have shifted as far south as to affect glaciation all over the Himalaya. During the Younger Dryas, the eastern limit of the influence of the westerly circulation on Himalaya glaciation may have been situated between the Manaslu and Langtang Himal. Glacial advances in the Pamir and in the Alay and Turkestan Ranges have occurred >93->136, ~60-80, (40-55), ~27-25, ~22-20, ~18, ~15.5, ~14.3, and 10.5 cal. ka B.P. The most extensive late Pleistocene glaciation occurred during the MIS 5-3, and is characterized by ELA depressions of ~370-380 m in the eastern Pamir, as well as 600 m and >750 m, in the Alay and Turkestan Ranges, respectively. Late Pleistocene glacier advances in northwestern High Asia, were triggered by climatic cold phases rather than by monsoonal maxima. Climate in the region seems to have been mostly under the influence of the westerly circulation and the Siberian anticyclone. Asynchrony of Central Asian and western hemisphere glacier advances is due to increasing aridity in Central Asia in the course of the last glacial cycle. High altitude glaciers seem to have reached their maximum extent earlier (MIS 5-4) than low altitude glaciers (first half of MIS 3). Some indirect monsoonal influence in the eastern Pamir may be responsible for the existence of some of the lateglacial moraine stages in this area.