Oldest lake in Europe reveals more than one million years of climate history

University of Cologne

The researchers drilled to a maximum depth of 568 metres and a water depth of 245 metres. This makes the endeavour one of the most successful lake drillings carried out in the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), allowing the team to collect high-resolution regional climate data for a period of over 1.3 million years. Credit: Niklas Leicher

The researchers drilled to a maximum depth of 568 metres and a water depth of 245 metres. This makes the endeavour one of the most successful lake drillings carried out in the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), allowing the team to collect high-resolution regional climate data for a period of over 1.3 million years. Credit: Niklas Leicher

A deep drilling project at Lake Ohrid, situated at the border between Albania and North Macedonia and involving 47 researchers from 13 nations, has brought new insights into climate history to light. The team, headed by the geologist Professor Dr Bernd Wagner from the University of Cologne, has now published its findings under the title ‘Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon during past 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘.

Lake Ohrid is considered the oldest existing lake in Europe. The project began 15 years ago with first preliminary investigations to determine the age of the lake and better understand the climate history of the Mediterranean region. The deep drilling took place in 2013. With a maximum drilling depth of 568 metres and a water depth of 245 metres, it became one of the most successful lake drillings carried out in the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP). The analysis of the extracted material – the drill cores with their sediment layers – took five years.

‘We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago and has existed continuously ever since’, the leading geologists Professor Dr Bernd Wagner and Dr Hendrik Vogel (University of Bern) said. ‘We were thrilled when we realized that we had retrieved one of the longest and most complete lake sediment cores from the oldest lake in Europe. Getting the chance to obtain high-resolution regional climate data for a period of over 1.3 million years is the dream of every climate researcher.’

The sediments deposited in the lake allow the scientists to reconstruct the climate history of the region over this period, for example about precipitation. The drilling cores for the first time provide data sets over such long time periods. This can now be compared with data from models. ‘This way, our research helps us to better understand the causes of rain phases and to more accurately assess the effects of climate change for future predictions,’ says Wagner.

The sediment data show a significant increase in winter precipitation in the northern Mediterranean region during the warm seasons. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by strong seasonal contrasts between dry summers and wet winters. Changes in winter rainfall are difficult to reconstruct on time scales of the last million years, Wagner explains. This is partly due to the fact that so far there are few regional hydro-climate records covering several glacial-interglacial cycles with different earth orbital geometries, global ice volume and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

The data from models of the research project have shown that low pressure increased over the western Mediterranean especially in the autumn months, triggered by an increase in surface temperatures in the Mediterranean. ‘Similar effects could also be caused by current global warming’, says Wagner.

###

The ICDP Drilling Program in Lake Ohrid was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the University of Cologne and other international donors.

From EurekAlert!

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105 thoughts on “Oldest lake in Europe reveals more than one million years of climate history

  1. A drilling depth of 568 metres or 568000mm equating to an average of 1mm of sediment per 2.39 years over the 1.36 million years leaves me wondering what effect anything feeding on the bottom would have had on determining the changes in the seasonal rainfall, and just what diameter core sample all this was drawn from.

    • So you’re thinking the resolution is about 2.39 years, but somehow they are detecting Autumn months out of that data? And you’re surprised? Maybe skeptical?

      • Folks, pay attention now. When you see EurekAlert! at the bottom, that’s kind of analogous to a /sarc tag. Maybe /prop would be a good tag for it (propaganda)

      • For those with the Grant money, detecting Autumn months in a 568 meter “core” drilling is “duck soup”.

        Why ….. 1/10th of every 1mm of sediment should be easy “pickings”, …. or should I say, easy season (Spring, Autumn) “choosing”.

        But the “compressed” difference between the “top” 1st meter of sediment might be a little different than the “bottom” 568th meter of sediment.

    • Might be worse than that.

      The 568m is drill depth. My understanding is that is measured from where they start the drill, which I take to be the lake surface.

      So if the lake in parts is 245m deep then we may actually only have 300 odd metres of core to play with.

      Open to correction.

      • Normally drilling depth is from the collar of the hole, ie when drilling starts. Depth of water is not included.

        • In oil & gas drilling, it’s the Kelly Bushing or Drill Floor. Both of which are above sea level on the drilling rig. Depth below water bottom is referred to as “below mud line.”

          Drilling depths include the water depth.

        • The the log header of a well drilled by Conoco in the Gulf of Mexico in 2000. The water depth is was 271′ in 2000 (and still is).

          The drill floor “DF” elevation was 115.5′ above sea level.

          All depths are referenced to the DF and anchored on the pipe tally.

          • Just like depth below mud line and subsea depth, that would have to be calculated from the measured depth, which is based on a pipe tally at the rig floor.

            If the rig floor was 150 m above the lake floor, the measured depth would be 719 m.

            It’s a difference between measured and calculated.

          • Ah David …. paper copies of Schlumberger well logs brings back memories of after midnight well calls and everyone madly reviewing logs while the rig stood by for orders.
            And worst of all picking intervals for cement plugs for the all too often abandonment 🙁

          • Now, with Schlumberger’s InterAct, you can watch the LWD logging real-time… Which I did about 20 hours a day from Friday through Monday. Even better, I run Landmark and SMT remotely… So I can pick tops, load them in the workstation and update the maps… while the well is drilling… from home… Makes it difficult to distinguish home from the office… LOL!

          • I think that’s a different paper about the same coring program. Mosh posted the SciHub link to the paper referenced in this post.

    • Yes, that may be correct –BUT — there is 1000um (micro-) per 1mm, so they could really determine whether it was or wasn’t raining on Wednesday, 24th of January 876,452BP; sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Long live the MicroMud Research!

  2. All this climate change without our help! Surely, that has to be the most newsworthy finding. I’ve had this wonderful idea for some time. A good deal of this kind of technical research is well done. It’s just the manipulations statistically and the foregone forced conclusions that are clearly junk science. My idea is that others take the actual observations from such a paper and arrive at the most likely conclusions.

    Perhaps a new “super peer review” process is the answer to the obvious need for monitoring of today’s post normal science work. What if a contractor was engaged to undertake the drilling (in this case), a second contractor did all the lab work, isotopes, and the like and the raw data then was given to say Bernd Wagner et all AND to Steve McIntyre and let them work independently!

    • “A good deal of this kind of technical research is well done. It’s just the manipulations statistically and the foregone forced conclusions that are clearly junk science. “

      Yes, that bit often comes next in the phase. They pay lip service to it:

      “… our research helps us to better understand the causes of rain phases and to more accurately assess the effects of climate change for future predictions,’ says Wagner.”

      The hubris is such that they probably never ask the question “Why would anybody be interested in your future predictions?”

      Reasons to not care about future “predictions” are easy to find;
      1) They too often seem to come with a clear economic/political bias.
      2) The people making the predictions have demonstrated no predictive skill.
      3) Predictions of only small changes would never be worth funding in a politician’s view. This is thus a systemic bias to produce exaggerated and alarmist predictions.
      4) Today, human adaptation and internal technological, economic and social changes are much faster and larger than climate changes. This also renders the predictions irrelevant.

      Many politicians and voters have been railroaded to blindly accepting that climate predictions have serious merit when they are, in fact, probably entirely useless speculation. Fun, maybe, but not worth funding from the public purse when there are still real problems in the world.

  3. The technical term is “bioturbation”. Bioturbation results in an averaging process, reducing the resolution of the core sample. Disturbing the top 4 inches (100 mm) at about 0.5 mm per year deposition constrains the resolution to about 200 years. For example,
    https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-bioturbation-1440851
    “Burrowing marine animals such as crabs, clams, and shrimp, can radically change sedimentary layers. These animals burrow into the sand, creating tunnels and moving materials from one sedimentary layer to another. If the tunnels are sturdy enough, they may later be filled with material formed at a later time.”

    • These very deep lakes are chosen to get sediment cores, because bioturbation does not occur in very deep water. So I have read.

    • This paper has authors numbering in the dozens. Understandable that many are needed, used to be in acknowledgments before journal “impact factors.” These workers are all essential, but difficult to believe that they actually were intimately involved in the science. The sediment boundary (bioturbated) layer is very interesting, originally studied in temperate lakes, interesting because the aerobic/anaerobic boundary comes up into the water column because of stratification which gets destroyed when the lake turns over. Similar, with great differences events occur in the ocean, and that’s part of the reason why there is still a journal Limnology and Oceanography.

      These oxygen poor or absent (refuse to use the common term as it is not true) areas are especially evident where productivity is highest, therefore organic matter. Their study too much degraded into a perceived ocean crisis ignoring many of the details, except for the complicated chemistry, including most of the bioturbation despite an old literature on the process. Am currently chasing an abstract claiming that cod feed temporarily there, beginning to become more known in other animals. One example [Craig, J. K, et al. 2010. Habitat use of cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) in a highly productive, hypoxic continental shelf ecosystem. Fisheries Oceanography. 19(4):301-317.] I once observed.

  4. ‘We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago and has existed continuously ever since’

    What degree candidate wouldn’t be failed on the spot for such hubris? Oh, wait. I meant real science degree candidate.

    • “We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago and has existed continuously ever since”, the leading geologists Professor Dr Bernd Wagner and Dr Hendrik Vogel (University of Bern) said.

      Actually, the original quote was: “We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago last Friday and has existed continuously ever since”, the leading geologists Professor Dr Bernd Wagner and Dr Hendrik Vogel (University of Bern) said [emphasis added].

      • “Actually, the original quote was: “We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago last Friday”

        LOL!

        I don’t know what to say about that other than to laugh out loud.

        • +- 2000 years, if I’m reading their graphs correctly. Pity they’re not posted here so we can discuss them.

      • There is an old joke about a farmer who regularly let geologists take students across his property to comment on the formations. While pointing out a feature, the geologist asked, “Does anyone know how old this formation is?”
        The farmer quipped from the back of the group, “2 million and 1 years old. When you were here last year you said it was 2 million years old.”

    • What worries me is that, when we light the 1.36 million candles on the lake’s birthday cake, Climate Change will go ballistic!

  5. “We have shown that the lake formed exactly 1.36 million years ago and has existed continuously ever since.”

    Really?

    “We were thrilled when we realized that we had retrieved one of the longest and most complete lake sediment cores from the oldest lake in Europe. Getting the chance to obtain high-resolution regional climate data for a period of over 1.3 million years is the dream of every climate researcher.”

    A wet dream?

    “The data from models of the research project have shown…”

    Computer model data output proves global warming? Riiiiiight!

    I call BS on this study but probably easy work if you can get it.

  6. …low pressure increased over the western Mediterranean especially in the autumn months,…

    Which means precipitation increased during warm phases.
    The Abstract of their paper:

    Abstract
    Mediterranean climates are characterized by strong seasonal contrasts between dry summers and wet winters. Changes in winter rainfall are critical for regional socioeconomic development, but are difficult to simulate accurately1 and reconstruct on Quaternary timescales. This is partly because regional hydroclimate records that cover multiple glacial–interglacial cycles2,3 with different orbital geometries, global ice volume and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are scarce. Moreover, the underlying mechanisms of change and their persistence remain unexplored. Here we show that, over the past 1.36 million years, wet winters in the northcentral Mediterranean tend to occur with high contrasts in local, seasonal insolation and a vigorous African summer monsoon. Our proxy time series from Lake Ohrid on the Balkan Peninsula, together with a 784,000-year transient climate model hindcast, suggest that increased sea surface temperatures amplify local cyclone development and refuel North Atlantic low-pressure systems that enter the Mediterranean during phases of low continental ice volume and high concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases. A comparison with modern reanalysis data shows that current drivers of the amount of rainfall in the Mediterranean share some similarities to those that drive the reconstructed increases in precipitation. Our data cover multiple insolation maxima and are therefore an important benchmark for testing climate model performance.”

    Translation of what is in bold above:

    During interglacials*, the seas surface also warms, which pumps copious moisture into the Central European-Balkan region from “water-exhausted” low pressures that crossed the Southern Alps after coming in from the Atlantic.

    Key: * 10Kyr – 20 Kyr interglacials” = their low continental ice volume and high concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases” .

    Wet winters = snow in the southern Alps, strong spring river flows and good spring growing seasons (high biological productivity)

    This is all during “high CO2 periods.” Yet s0omehow, CO2 increases are now supposed to be an existential threat?

    The science is basically sound. The alarmist rhetoric over the current inter-glacial trace gas increase for political purposes is the real problem. And they Left has adopted it as their Holy Grail of Power. And the “scientists” remain silent to that abuse of their work and findings.

  7. Exactly how can one core sample from the bottom of a lake show you what kind of precipitation and weather changes occurred on the surface of the water and surrounding land? This is a lake with sediment that may build up and erode away poorly, but being a lake, not much new sediment would be doing much or coming from any distant lands. If I bored a hole into solid clay, dirt, and bedrock that was undisturbed or exposed to atmospheric conditions of anytype, but was instead covered by water for “exactly 1.36 million years, how would that show any data of the WORLD’S climate that changed around it? All that column was mostly exposed to was the dirt and muck above it that was then topped off with a water depth of 245 metres (803.806 ft) never seeing the light of day or surface climate changes for over “1.36 million years”. I think someone is playing with straws. Geological data is one thing, but to cross that data to climate change science in this case seems a bit far fetched. But if they can “prove” humans are causing climate changes they will get offered mucho grants in return.

      • Steve – thanks for the link. As you say RTFM !

        Note to all – quit the knee jerk reaction and read the damn thing.

        Apart from the verbal pandering to the consensus the graphics and data show that the past climate is cyclical with little to support alarmism.

      • RTFBS
        Our proxy time series from Lake Ohrid on the Balkan Peninsula, together with a 784,000-year transient climate model hindcast …“.

      • It looks like their time scales are so coarse, little 150 year blips like we’re experiencing now would be lost completely in the noise. Not useful for for showing small changes like the last 150 years, or even the last 500.

    • Just because you don’t know “how can one core sample from the bottom of a lake show you what kind of precipitation and weather changes occurred on the surface of the water and surrounding land?” that doesn’t mean its impossible.

      Look up Dunning Kruger effect’

      “WORLD’S climate…”

      They specifically said “the Mediterranean region.”

      • Loydo

        Have you decided you can diagnose the DK effect using only social media comments ? What are your psychiatry qualifications? If you don’t have any, would you not the consider DK as appropriate for your own behaviour patterns?

        That’s the problem with untrained people who refer to DK, Loydo: you find yourself in a hideous DK feedback loop which only serves to amplify your foolishness.

  8. This is what happens when countries have free university education. Garbage in, garbage out.

    “Exactly” – my ass!

  9. The data from models of the research project have shown that low pressure increased over the western Mediterranean especially in the autumn months, triggered by an increase in surface temperatures in the Mediterranean. ‘Similar effects could also be caused by current global warming’, says Wagner.“.

    These people have gone to great lengths to obtain an extremely valuable core sample. That is highly commendable, and hopefully the core and its data will be freely available to researchers. It has taken these people several years to cone up with … complete BS. As others have commented, the resolution of the data is in multiple years. Yet they come up with a statement about “the autumn months”. They can’t see autumn months in the data.. What they seem to have done is to run their execrably useless climate models, mechanically parameterising them to get some sort of match to the cores, and then they tell us that the effects read from their models could be similar to the results that their models give.

    How on Earth did this garbage get past peer-review??? [That’s a rhetorical question. I don’t need an answer.]. Many people have said it many times, but it’s worth repeating that climate science as currently practised is surely the absolute worst science (of its scale) that has ever been seen, and almost daily it seems to plumb new depths.

      • Probably because the climate has changed from interglacial to glacial and back again more than 15 times during the time covered by the core.

    • The area is wooded with deciduous trees , autumn winds taking foliage to the lake surface eventually creating the lake’s sediment. It is not that individual autumns that can be identified, but sediments may identify century long trends in the autumn fallout as the main source of the lake’s sediment. As far as I recall from my visit, there is only one small tributary to the lake, flowing through the town of Ohrid. It receives water from numerous underwater sources, while the lake is the source of Blue Drim, the largest river in the wider region. The lake has preserved many species of aquatic life that do not exist in any of other of the European lakes. The area is widely known for its natural beauty.

      • It seems like their resulting data has a much coarser resolution than 100 years, more like 1 to 2k years.

        • I have not seen the entire study, but if that is your assessment I have no problem to accept it. Resolution depends on the number of data points, and if they have considered one Myr or a bit longer, then resolution order of 1kyr would be a reasonable expectation.

      • Most of this 1.36 M years would have been during periods of high glaciation. So, I would say that the main contribution of this research would be what it “might” reveal about conditions around the Med during those periods.
        As others have mentioned, I can’t see how they can define seasonal changes in the core material if 1 year equals less than half a millimeter.
        Also, I would suspect that the lake itself is probably large enough to effect the immediate local climate. Especially being close to the sea and having warm, wet air masses coming over it.

        Mod: I can’t seem to get anything to post here anymore. Is there a problem?

        • I would hazard to guess that the south east Europe and the Asia minor temperatures during glacials were not much different to the interglacials, geographically area is further south ( 35-40 N) and in addition Mediterranean at places is very shallow. Due to the much lover sea levels during glacials, African land mass could have been approaching Sicily.
          I would assume that any sediment in parts of the lake would be well mixed due to numerous underwater sources, so resolution of sediment less than one or even two order of magnitude greater (10 to 100 mm) might not make any sense.
          In above post I suggested 100 years, or even higher as 1-2 ky as proposed by Jeff Alberts above.

      • Vuk: I hitch-hiked through Yugoslavia in 1964 – a place with so few cars at the time that I walked a goodly distance. I finally bought a donkey (‘mungara’?) at the market place in Skopje, Macedonia and rode him to Lake Ohrid ( for some reason my memory tells me it was called Okrid?). The whole trip by way of Gostivar was 150km which took about two weeks. I sold the donkey at the market in Ohrid in a heavy rainstorm that must have added a mm to Dr Wagner’s core. Beautiful lake.

        • Gary that was long time ago. I went there when at the secondary school.
          Macedonian is one from the family of south slavic languages and as the rest it is phonetic. Words are pronounced as they are written, O-h-r-i-d, (Охрид) where h as in have or house, while donkey=magare (магаре)

          • In all south slavic languages and russian ‘h’ is pronounced as ‘h’ in english ‘have’ but with a stronger emphasis (achieved by raising tongue towards palate).
            Polish and Czechoslovakian I think do the same.

    • Yeah yeah but don’t forget-

      “Changes in winter rainfall are difficult to reconstruct on time scales of the last million years, Wagner explains. This is partly due to the fact that so far there are few regional hydro-climate records covering several glacial-interglacial cycles with different earth orbital geometries, global ice volume and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

      So you have to rely on the computer models silly. Oh and stop being picky about autumn because winter gets a thorough going over too as this is no lightweight computer modelling going on here-
      “The sediment data show a significant increase in winter precipitation in the northern Mediterranean region during the warm seasons.”

      • I should think he means:

        “a significant increase in winter precipitation in the northern Mediterranean region during the warm intervals

        Winter precipitation during the warm season sounds rather exotic.

  10. In 1990s I talked to a young refugee from Yugoslavia who grew up on the Macedonian shore of lake Ohrid. He told me that dead bodies of people, shot in the back of their heads, regularly floated toward their village from the Albanian side.

    • It’s true, but now you can find all around Ohrid’s lake very friendly albanian people as well in the city of Pogradec (Albania) as in Ohrid (North Macedonia) where inhabitants are mostly albanian speaking people. You can find cheap and sympathic camp sites and you can eat very delicious trouts !

      • Oh, I know. We drove all the way from Saranda to Shkoder in rental car a few years ago. Albanians were cautiously sympathetic toward Americans, though some timidity, instilled by old-regime, was still felt time to time.

        Albanians living to the south of Kara-Burun peninsuala are mostly Christians, though speak Albanian. North of this peninsula the Muslim Albania begins. Though I didn’t notice any strong influence of religion there — it seems that decades of mad dictatorship made people indiffirent to religion (which, probably, the only positive consequence of Enver Hoja’s atrocities).

  11. ‘Similar effects could also be caused by current global warming’, says Wagner.

    I m very uneducated in these matters, but if I gave it a rough guess, this paper is stating that 1.36 million years ago, rain and sunshine were due to nature, but now rain and sunshine is due to humans and CO2?

  12. Wow. They even managed to get the compulsory mention of ‘global warming’ in. Can we get at the dataset?

  13. I think that most of the comments are a bit cynical. Is the data from these
    cores being published, or is it in the process of being “”Corrected””

    If its for real then some items such as Volcanos would be recorded, including
    the possible “”Draining of the RED or was it the REED Sea. The Bible says
    so, so it must be true.

    MJE VK5ELL

  14. Do you mean that they are going to now realize that climate has always changed and mankind’s puny contribution is meaningless and that we should all get on with much more important things like looking after each other?

  15. Isn’t it fascinating how whenever scientists find that something that is happening now, has happened before, they immediately assume that this time it’s being caused by CO2.

    • Well no they don’t assume anything. They simply run the CO2 computer models on it and that gives you the connection. Fascinating isn’t it?

  16. “This can now be compared with data from models. ‘This way, our research helps us to better understand the causes of rain phases and to more accurately assess the effects of climate change for future predictions,’ says Wagner.”

    The reason these “scientists” get all hot and bothered about new data, is that they view it simply as a new source of grist for the “climate change” mill. In goes the new data, out comes climate alarmism.
    Amazing how that works.

  17. Ah David …. paper copies of Schlumberger well logs brings back memories of after midnight well calls and everyone madly reviewing logs while the rig stood by for orders.
    And worst of all picking intervals for cement plugs for the all too often abandonment 🙁

  18. Good news – our Planet is used during past 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘

    to ‘Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon

    during past 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘.

    ‘Similar effects could also be caused by current global warming’, says Wagner.
    ________________________________________________

    So our Planet copes since 1.36 million years’ with Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon ‘Nature‘.

    – it won’t be endangered by another 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘ by Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon due to current global warming’, says Wagner.

  19. Good news – our Planet is used during past 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘

    to ‘Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon

    during past 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘.

    ‘Similar effects could also be caused by current global warming’, says Wagner.
    ______________________________________________________

    So our Planet copes since 1.36 million years’ with Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon ‘Nature‘.

    – it won’t be endangered by another 1.36 million years’ in ‘Nature‘ by Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoon due to current global warming’, says Wagner.

    ______________________________________________________

    This can now be compared with data from models.

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