Shutting down dust emission during the middle Holocene drought in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona, USA

Guy Tau, Onn Crouvi, Yehouda Enzel, Nadya Teutsch, Paul Ginoux, Craig Rasmussen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term relationships between climate and dust emission remain unclear, with two prevailing but opposite hypotheses for effects of climate shifts: (1) increased dust emission due to increasing aridity imposing a vegetation change, or (2) decreased dust emission due to increasing aridity which imposes less stormy climate and reduced sediment supply. Here we test these hypotheses by analyzing an ∼11-m-long core archiving Holocene dust trapped in Montezuma Well, a natural sinkhole in Arizona (southwestern United States), alongside current dust sources and transport pathways. Major elements indicate that Montezuma Well sediments originate from two end members: local carbonate bedrock and external siliceous dust. Core sediments are similar to the adjacent siliceous soils accumulated atop the bedrock, pointing to their eolian origin. Particle-size distributions reveal fine dust transported during winter from the northwestern Sonoran Desert and the Mojave Desert and coarse dust transported during summer from the southwestern Sonoran Desert, similar to current climate systems and dust pathways. A survey of potential dust sources indicates that current summer and winter dust sources in the Sonoran Desert are under a supply-limited state. Dust fluxes were higher during wetter phases of the Holocene when winter sources dominated. During the middle Holocene drought, dust fluxes were minimal and dominated by summer sources until dust input ceased as drought conditions did not produce enough floods to refill sources with sediments. We propose that in the Sonoran Desert, dust emission is strongly connected with climate, increasing during humid intervals and enhanced by fluvial sediment replenishment at dust sources.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)857-861
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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