Magnetic susceptibility as a proxy for rainfall: Worldwide data from tropical and temperate climate

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The magnetic susceptibility of soils has been linked with climate, mainly through rainfall, by numerous investigators. For this study we assembled a worldwide dataset of 272 samples, both published and new, to determine the nature of the relationship between MS and rainfall. On a worldwide basis there is a crude relationship (r2 = 0.265) between MS and rainfall. MS increases with increasing rainfall from about 200 mm/yr to 1000-1200 mm/yr. Above 1200 mm/yr, MS decreases as rainfall increases up to about 2000 mm/yr. Under arid and semi-arid conditions, below about 200 mm/yr of rainfall, MS and rainfall exhibit no relationship, likely the result of limited pedogenic activity. When tropical and temperate localities are analyzed separately, the correlation between MS and rainfall exhibits a dramatic improvement, r2 = 0.568 and 0.520, respectively. For similar amounts of rainfall tropical localities generally exhibit lower MS values which may be related to differences in the seasonal variation of rainfall. Because the soil environment is highly variable, it is unlikely that a global or even regional equation could accurately estimate rainfall from MS. Using data from Morocco and Mali we demonstrate that local equations using only MS to estimate rainfall produce reasonable results, r2 = 0.700 for Morocco and 0.611 for Mali. However, a single independent variable is unlikely to capture the variability of the complex soil system. To the local equations described above we experimented with adding several independent variables in addition to MS including diffuse reflectance spectral data (DRS), x-ray diffraction (XRD), and x-ray fluorescence (XRF). For DRS data, % reflectance and red, yellow, and near-infrared wavelengths appear important; for XRD illite and kaolinite counts are important whereas for XRF Fe2O3 is important. The addition of these other independent variables dramatically improves prediction quality. In the case of the Mali transect, estimating rainfall from these variables produces an r2 that exceeds 0.9. Based on these data we conclude that MS has the potential to be a reasonable proxy of rainfall for mean annual precipitation values from 200 to 2000 mm/yr, especially if local equations are used. Predictions can be improved by including other independent variables that show sensitivity to climate and are related to MS through the chemistry of the weathering process; we included DRS, XRD, and XRF data with good results. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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Quaternary Science Reviews

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