Paleohydraulic reconstruction of a 40 kyr-old terrace sequence implies that water discharge was larger than today

Litty, Camille; Duller, Robert; Schlunegger, Fritz (2016). Paleohydraulic reconstruction of a 40 kyr-old terrace sequence implies that water discharge was larger than today. Earth surface processes and landforms, 41(7), pp. 884-898. Wiley 10.1002/esp.3872

[img] Text
Litty_Schlunegger.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (2MB) | Request a copy

The evolution of landscapes crucially depends on the climate history. This is particularly evident in South America where landscape responses to orbital climate shifts have been well documented. However, while most studies have focused on inferring temperature variations from paleoclimate proxy data, estimates of water budget changes have been complicated because of a lack of adequate physical information. Here, we present a methodology and related results, which allowed us to extract water discharge values from the sedimentary record of the 40 Ka-old fluvial terrace deposits in the Pisco valley, western Peru. In particular, this valley hosts a Quaternary cut-and-fill succession that we used, in combination with beryllium-10 (10Be)-based sediment flux, gauging records, channel geometries and grain size measurements, to quantitatively assess sediment and water discharge values c. 40 Ka ago in relation to present-day conditions. We compare these discharge estimates to the discharge regime of the modern Pisco River and find that the water discharge of the paleo-Pisco River, during the Minchin pluvial period c. 40 Ka ago, was c. 7–8 times greater than the modern Pisco River if considering the mean and the maximum water discharge. In addition, the calculations show that inferred water discharge estimates are mainly dependent on channel gradients and grain size values, and to a lesser extent on channel width measures. Finally, we found that the c. 40 Ka-old Minchin terrace material was poorer sorted than the modern deposits, which might reflect that sediment transport during the past period was characterized by a larger divergence from equal mobility compared to the modern situation. In summary, the differences in grain size distribution and inferred water discharge estimates between the modern and the paleo-Pisco River suggests that the 40 Ka-old Minchin period was characterized by a wetter climate and more powerful flood events.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Litty, Camille, Schlunegger, Fritz


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Fritz Schlunegger

Date Deposited:

08 Feb 2016 13:49

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback