Late Quaternary weathering, erosion, and deposition in Nahal Yael, Israel: An "impact of climatic change on an arid watershed"?

Yehouda Enzel*, Rivka Amit, Tamir Grodek, Avner Ayalon, Judith Lekach, Naomi Porat, Paul Bierman, Joel D. Blum, Yigal sErel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In their seminal paper in 1979, Bull and Schick proposed a conceptual model for the geomorphic response to Pleistocene to Holocene climate change, based on the hyperarid Nahal Yael watershed in the southern Negev Desert. In this model, the change from semiarid late Pleistocene to hyperarid early Holo cene climates reduced vegetation cover, increased the yield of sediment from slopes, and accelerated aggradation of terraces and alluvial fans. The model is now over 30 yr old, and during this time, chronologic, paleoenvironmental, and hydrogeomorphic research has advanced. Here, we reevaluate the model using data acquired in Nahal Yael over the 30 yr since the original model was proposed. Recent studies indicate that the late Pleistocene climate was hyperarid, and a transition from semiarid to hyperarid climates did not occur. The revised chronology reveals a major 35-20 ka episode of accelerated late Pleistocene sediment production on slopes (with lower rates probably already at ca. 50 ka) due to increased frequency of wetting-drying cycles caused by frequent extreme storms and floods between 35 and 27 ka. Without lag time, these sediments were transported and aggraded in depositional landscape components (fluvial terraces and alluvial fans). This intensified sediment production and delivery phase is unrelated to the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The depositional landforms were rapidly incised between 20 and 18 ka. Since and/or soon after this Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) incision, most material leaving the basin originated from sediments stored in depositional landforms and was not produced from bedrock. Using these new data, we propose a revision to the Bull and Schick model in this hyperarid environment. Our revision suggests that the model should include the frequent storms and floods responsible for a late Pleistocene pulse of intense weathering due to numerous cycles of wetting and drying on slopes and coeval sediment transport to fluvial terraces and alluvial fans. We also discuss the common use and pitfalls of using the Bull and Schick conceptual model to explain observations in diverse arid environments, usually without sufficient data on basin-specific stratigraphic, chronologic, paleoenvironmental, and paleoclimatic information.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)705-722
Number of pages18
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - May 2012


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