Finely laminated sediments within Bainbridge Crater Lake, Galápagos, provide a record of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events over the Holocene. Despite the importance of this sediment record, hypotheses for how climate variability is preserved in the lake sediments have not been tested. Here we present results of long-term monitoring of the local climate and limnology and a revised interpretation of the sediment record. Brown-green, organic-rich, siliciclastic laminae reflect warm, wet conditions typical of El Niño events, whereas carbonate and gypsum precipitate during cool, dry La Niña events and persistent dry periods, respectively. Applying this new interpretation, we find that ENSO events of both phases were generally less frequent during the mid-Holocene (~6100–4000 calendar years B.P.) relative to the last ~1500 calendar years. Abundant carbonate laminations between 3500 and 3000 calendar years B.P. imply that conditions in the Galápagos region were cool and dry during this period when the tropical Pacific E-W sea surface temperature (SST) gradient likely strengthened. The frequency of El Niño and La Niña events then intensified dramatically around 1750–2000 calendar years B.P., consistent with a weaker SST gradient and an increased frequency of ENSO events in other regional records. This strong interannual variability persisted until ~700 calendar years B.P., when ENSO-related variability at the lake decreased as the SST gradient strengthened. Persistent, dry conditions then dominated between 300 and 50 calendar years B.P. (A.D. 1650–1900, ± ~100 years), whereas wetter conditions and frequent El Niño events dominated in the most recent century.
- El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
- Galápagos archipelago
- climate variability
- tropical Pacific Ocean
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