Mediterranean winter rainfall in phase with African monsoons during the past 1.36 million years


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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Chronology and location of the Lake Ohrid DEEP site record.
Fig. 2: Lake Ohrid precipitation indicators and global monsoon records for the past 1.4 Myr.
Fig. 3: Simulated Lake Ohrid precipitation and atmospheric anomaly pattern associated with precipitation maxima.

Data availability

Data are available from the Pangaea database (; links to the individual datasets are provided within this dataset. Data used for LOVECLIM are available at Additional data are available upon request made to T.F. (

Code availability

Model data produced by the LOVECLIM simulations are available through the data centre of the IBS Center for Climate Physics (


  1. 1.

    IPCC. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  2. 2.

    Kutzbach, J. E., Chen, G., Cheng, H., Edwards, R. & Liu, Z. Potential role of winter rainfall in explaining increased moisture in the Mediterranean and Middle East during periods of maximum orbitally-forced insolation seasonality. Clim. Dyn. 42, 1079–1095 (2014).

  3. 3.

    Tzedakis, P. C., Hooghiemstra, H. & Pälike, H. The last 1.35 million years at Tenaghi Philippon, revised chronostratigraphy and long-term vegetation trends. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 3416–3430 (2006).

  4. 4.

    Hoerling, M. et al. On the increased frequency of Mediterranean drought. J. Clim. 25, 2146–2161 (2012).

  5. 5.

    Weisheimer, A. & Palmer, T. N. On the reliability of seasonal climate forecasts. J. R. Soc. Interface 11, 20131162 (2014).

  6. 6.

    Totz, S., Tziperman, E., Coumou, D., Pfeiffer, K. & Cohen, J. Winter precipitation forecast in the European and Mediterranean regions using cluster analysis. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 12,418–12,426 (2017).

  7. 7.

    Milner, A. M. et al. Enhanced seasonality of precipitation in the Mediterranean during the early part of the Last Interglacial. Geology 40, 919–922 (2012).

  8. 8.

    Toucanne, S. et al. Tracking rainfall in the northern Mediterranean borderlands during sapropel deposition. Quat. Sci. Rev. 129, 178–195 (2015).

  9. 9.

    Stockhecke, M. et al. Millennial to orbital-scale variations of drought intensity in the eastern Mediterranean. Quat. Sci. Rev. 133, 77–95 (2016).

  10. 10.

    Roberts, N. et al. Stable isotope records of Late Quaternary climate and hydrology from Mediterranean lakes: the ISOMED synthesis. Quat. Sci. Rev. 27, 2426–2441 (2008).

  11. 11.

    Magny, M. et al. North–south palaeohydrological contrasts in the central Mediterranean during the Holocene: tentative synthesis and working hypotheses. Clim. Past 9, 2043–2071 (2013).

  12. 12.

    Emeis, K.-C., Camerlenghi, A., McKenzie, J. A., Rio, D. & Sprovieri, R. The occurrence and significance of Pleistocene and Upper Pliocene sapropels in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Mar. Geol. 100, 155–182 (1991).

  13. 13.

    Kroon, D. et al. Oxygen isotope and sapropel stratigraphy in the Eastern Mediterranean during the last 3.2 million years. In Proc. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results Vol. 160 (eds Robertson, A. H. F. et al.) 181−190 (1998).

  14. 14.

    Rossignol-Strick, M. Mediterranean Quaternary sapropels, an immediate response of the African monsoon to variation of insolation. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 49, 237–263 (1985).

  15. 15.

    Rohling, E. J., Marino, G. & Grant, K. M. Mediterranean climate and oceanography, and the periodic development of anoxic events (sapropels). Earth Sci. Rev. 143, 62–97 (2015).

  16. 16.

    Tzedakis, P. C. Seven ambiguities in the Mediterranean palaeoenvironmental narrative. Quat. Sci. Rev. 26, 2042–2066 (2007).

  17. 17.

    Bosmans, J. H. C. et al. Precession and obliquity forcing of the freshwater budget over the Mediterranean. Quat. Sci. Rev. 123, 16–30 (2015).

  18. 18.

    Wagner, B. et al. The environmental and evolutionary history of Lake Ohrid (FYROM/Albania): interim results from the SCOPSCO deep drilling project. Biogeosciences 14, 2033–2054 (2017).

  19. 19.

    Vogel, H., Wagner, B., Zanchetta, G., Sulpizio, R. & Rosén, P. A paleoclimate record with tephrochronological age control for the last glacial–interglacial cycle from Lake Ohrid, Albania and Macedonia. J. Paleolimnol. 44, 295–310 (2010).

  20. 20.

    Francke, A. et al. Sedimentological processes and environmental variability at Lake Ohrid (Macedonia, Albania) between 637 ka and the present. Biogeosciences 13, 1179–1196 (2016).

  21. 21.

    Forner, A. et al. Extreme droughts affecting Mediterranean tree species’ growth and water-use efficiency: the importance of timing. Tree Physiol. 38, 1127–1137 (2018).

  22. 22.

    Friedrich, T., Timmermann, A., Tigchelaar, M., Elison Timm, O. & Ganopolski, A. Nonlinear climate sensitivity and its implications for future greenhouse warming. Sci. Adv. 2, e1501923 (2016).

  23. 23.

    Timmermann, A. & Friedrich, T. Late Pleistocene climate drivers of early human migration. Nature 538, 92–95 (2016).

  24. 24.

    Lisiecki, L. E. & Raymo, M. E. A Pliocene–Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic δ18O records. Paleoceanography 20, PA1003 (2005).

  25. 25.

    Cheng, H. et al. The Asian monsoon over the past 640,000 years and ice age terminations. Nature 534, 640–646 (2016).

  26. 26.

    Konijnendijk, T. Y. M., Ziegler, M. & Lourens, L. J. Chronological constraints on Pleistocene sapropel depositions from high-resolution geochemical records of ODP sites 967 and 968. Newsl. Stratigr. 47, 263–282 (2014).

  27. 27.

    Colleoni, F., Masina, S., Negri, A. & Marzocchi, A. Plio–Pleistocene high–low latitude climate interplay: a Mediterranean point of view. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 319–320, 35–44 (2012).

  28. 28.

    Martrat, B., Jimenez-Amat, P., Zahn, R. & Grimalt, J. O. Similarities and dissimilarities between the last two deglaciations and interglaciations in the North Atlantic region. Quat. Sci. Rev. 99, 122–134 (2014).

  29. 29.

    Trigo, R. M., Osborne, T. J. & Corte-Real, J. M. The North Atlantic Oscillation influence on Europe: climate impacts and associated physical mechanisms. Clim. Res. 20, 9–17 (2002).

  30. 30.

    Laskar, J. et al. A long-term numerical solution for the insolation quantities of the Earth. Astron. Astrophys. 428, 261–285 (2004).

  31. 31.

    Popovska, C. & Bonacci, O. Basic data on the hydrology of Lakes Ohrid and Prespa. Hydrol. Processes 21, 658–664 (2007).

  32. 32.

    Matzinger, A., Spirkovski, Z., Patceva, S. & Wüest, A. Sensitivity of ancient Lake Ohrid to local anthropogenic impacts and global warming. J. Great Lakes Res. 32, 158–179 (2006).

  33. 33.

    Wagner, B. et al. The SCOPSCO drilling project recovers more than 1.2 million years of history from Lake Ohrid. Sci. Drill. 17, 19–29 (2014).

  34. 34.

    Farmer, V. C. (ed.) The Infrared Spectra of Minerals (Adlard & Son, 1974).

  35. 35.

    Chukanov, N. V. Infrared Spectra of Mineral Species (Springer, 2014).

  36. 36.

    Sadori, L. et al. Pollen-based paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic change at Lake Ohrid (south-eastern Europe) during the past 500 ka. Biogeosciences 13, 1423–1437 (2016).

  37. 37.

    Beug, H.-J. Leitfaden der Pollenbestimmung für Mitteleuropa und angrenzende Gebiete (Friedrich Pfeil, 2004).

  38. 38.

    Cheddadi, R. et al. Imprints of glacial refugia in the modern genetic diversity of Pinus sylvestris. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 15, 271–282 (2006).

  39. 39.

    Rossignol-Strick, M. The Holocene climatic optimum and pollen records of sapropel 1 in the Eastern Mediterranean, 9000–6000 BP. Quat. Sci. Rev. 18, 515–530 (1999).

  40. 40.

    Langgut, D., Almogi-Labin, A., Bar-Matthews, M. & Weinstein-Evron, M. Vegetation and climate changes in the South Eastern Mediterranean during the Last Glacial–Interglacial cycle (86 ka): new marine pollen record. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 3960–3972 (2011).

  41. 41.

    Combourieu-Nebout, N. et al. Climate changes in the central Mediterranean and Italian vegetation dynamics since the Pliocene. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 218, 127–147 (2015).

  42. 42.

    Lacey, J. H. et al. Northern Mediterranean climate since the Middle Pleistocene: a 637 ka stable isotope record from Lake Ohrid (Albania/Macedonia). Biogeosciences 13, 1801–1820 (2016).

  43. 43.

    Just, J. et al. Environmental control on the occurrence of high-coercivity magnetic minerals and formation of iron sulfides in a 640 ka sediment sequence from Lake Ohrid (Balkans). Biogeosciences 13, 2093–2109 (2016).

  44. 44.

    Leicher, N. et al. First tephrostratigraphic results of the DEEP site record from Lake Ohrid (Macedonia and Albania). Biogeosciences 13, 2151–2178 (2016).

  45. 45.

    Kousis, I. et al. Centennial-scale vegetation dynamics and climate variability in SE Europe during Marine Isotope Stage 11 based on a pollen record from Lake Ohrid. Quat. Sci. Rev. 190, 20–38 (2018).

  46. 46.

    Francke, A. et al. Sediment residence time reveals Holocene shift from climatic to vegetation control on catchment erosion in the Balkans. Global Planet. Change 177, 186–200 (2019).

  47. 47.

    Niespolo, E. M., Rutte, D., Deino, A. L. & Renne, P. R. Intercalibration and age of the Alder Creek sanidine 40Ar/39Ar standard. Quat. Geochronol. 39, 205–213 (2017).

  48. 48.

    Renne, P. R., Balco, G., Ludwig, K. R., Mundil, R. & Min, K. Response to the comment by W. H. Schwarz et al. on “Joint determination of 40K decay constants and 40Ar*/40K for the Fish Canyon sanidine standard, and improved accuracy for 40Ar/39Ar geochronology” by P. R. Renne et al. (2010). Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 75, 5097–5100 (2011).

  49. 49.

    Lee, J. Y. et al. A redetermination of the isotopic abundances of atmospheric Ar. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 70, 4507–4512 (2006).

  50. 50.

    Giaccio, B. et al. Revised chronology of the Sulmona lacustrine succession, central Italy. J. Quat. Sci. 28, 545–551 (2013).

  51. 51.

    Giaccio, B. et al. Tephra layers from Holocene lake sediments of the Sulmona Basin, central Italy: implications for volcanic activity in peninsular Italy and tephrostratigraphy in the central Mediterranean area. Quat. Sci. Rev. 28, 2710–2733 (2009).

  52. 52.

    Petrosino, P. et al. The Montalbano Jonico marine succession: an archive for distal tephra layers at the early–middle Pleistocene boundary in southern Italy. Quat. Int. 383, 89–103 (2015).

  53. 53.

    Ciaranfi, N. et al. Integrated stratigraphy and astronomical tuning of lower–middle Pleistocene Montalbano Jonico section (Southern Italy). Quat. Int. 219, 109–120 (2010).

  54. 54.

    Massari, F. et al. Interplay between tectonics and glacio-eustasy: Pleistocene succession of the Crotone basin, Calabria (southern Italy). Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 114, 1183–1209 (2002).

  55. 55.

    Capraro, L. et al. Climatic patterns revealed by pollen and oxygen isotope records across the Matuyama–Brunhes boundary in the central Mediterranean (southern Italy). Geol. Soc. Lond. Spec. Publ. 247, 159–182 (2005).

  56. 56.

    Capraro, L. et al. Chronology of the lower–middle Pleistocene succession of the south-western part of the Crotone basin (Calabria, southern Italy). Quat. Sci. Rev. 30, 1185–1200 (2011).

  57. 57.

    Giaccio, B. et al. Duration and dynamics of the best orbital analogue to the present interglacial. Geology 43, 603–606 (2015).

  58. 58.

    Sagnotti, L. et al. Extremely rapid directional change during Matuyama–Brunhes geomagnetic polarity reversal. Geophys. J. Int. 199, 1110–1124 (2014).

  59. 59.

    Sagnotti, L. et al. How fast was the Matuyama–Brunhes geomagnetic reversal? A new subcentennial record from the Sulmona basin, central Italy. Geophys. J. Int. 204, 798–812 (2016).

  60. 60.

    Simon, Q. et al. Authigenic 10Be/9Be ratio signature of the Matuyama–Brunhes boundary in the Montalbano Jonico marine succession. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 460, 255–267 (2017).

  61. 61.

    Rio, D. et al. Reading Pleistocene eustasy in a tectonically active siliciclastic shelf setting (Crotone peninsula, southern Italy). Geology 24, 743–746 (1996).

  62. 62.

    Macrì, P., Capraro, L., Ferretti, P. & Scarponi, D. A high-resolution record of the Matuyama–Brunhes transition from the Mediterranean region: the Valle di Manche section (Calabria, Southern Italy). Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 278, 1–15 (2018).

  63. 63.

    Giaccio, B., Hajdas, I., Isaia, R., Deino, A. & Nomade, S. High-precision 14C and 40Ar/39Ar dating of the Campanian Ignimbrite (Y-5) reconciles the time-scales of climatic–cultural processes at 40 ka. Sci. Rep. 7, 45940 (2017).

  64. 64.

    Regattieri, E. et al. A Last Interglacial record of environmental changes from the Sulmona basin (central Italy). Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 472, 51–66 (2017).

  65. 65.

    Giaccio, B. et al. First integrated tephrochronological record for the last ~190 kyr from the Fucino Quaternary lacustrine succession, central Italy. Quat. Sci. Rev. 158, 211–234 (2017).

  66. 66.

    Laurenzi, M. A. & Villa, I. 40Ar/39Ar chronostratigraphy of Vico ignimbrites. Period. Mineral. 56, 285–293 (1987).

  67. 67.

    Karner, D. B., Marra, F. & Renne, P. R. The history of the Monti Sabatini and Alban Hills volcanoes: groundwork for assessing volcanic–tectonic hazards for Rome. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 107, 185–219 (2001).

  68. 68.

    Mercer, C. M. & Hodges, K. V. ArAR — a software tool to promote the robust comparison of K–Ar and 40Ar/39Ar dates published using different decay, isotopic, and monitor-age parameters. Chem. Geol. 440, 148–163 (2016).

  69. 69.

    Blaauw, M. & Christen, J. A. Flexible paleoclimate age–depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Anal. 6, 457–474 (2011).

  70. 70.

    Grant, K. M. et al. Rapid coupling between ice volume and polar temperature over the past 150,000 years. Nature 491, 744–747 (2012).

  71. 71.

    Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., Gilmour, M., Matthews, A. & Hawkesworth, C. J. Sea-land oxygen isotopic relationships from planktonic foraminifera and speleothems in the eastern Mediterranean region and their implication for paleorainfall during interglacial intervals. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 67, 3181–3199 (2003).

  72. 72.

    Goosse, H. et al. Description of the Earth system model of intermediate complexity LOVECLIM version 1.2. Geosci. Model Dev. 3, 603–633 (2010).

  73. 73.

    Opsteegh, J. D., Haarsma, R. J., Selten, F. M. & Kattenberg, A. ECBILT: a dynamic alternative to mixed boundary conditions in ocean models. Tellus A Dyn. Meterol. Oceanogr. 50, 348–367 (1998).

  74. 74.

    Goosse, H. & Fichefet, T. Importance of ice–ocean interactions for the global ocean circulation: a model study. J. Geophys. Res. 104, 23337–23355 (1999).

  75. 75.

    Brovkin, V., Ganopolski, A. & Svirezhev, Y. A continuous climate–vegetation classification for use in climate–biosphere studies. Ecol. Modell. 101, 251–261 (1997).

  76. 76.

    Timmermann, A. et al. Modeling obliquity and CO2 effects on Southern Hemisphere climate during the past 408 ka. J. Clim. 27, 1863–1875 (2014).

  77. 77.

    Berger, A. Long-term variations of daily insolation and Quaternary climate change. J. Atmos. Sci. 35, 2362–2367 (1978).

  78. 78.

    Lüthi, D. et al. High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000–800,000 years before present. Nature 453, 379–382 (2008).

  79. 79.

    EPICA community members. Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 429, 623–628 (2004).

  80. 80.

    Ganopolski, A. & Calov, R. The role of orbital forcing, carbon dioxide and regolith in 100 kyr glacial cycles. Clim. Past 7, 1415–1425 (2011).

  81. 81.

    Hammer, O. Paleontological Statistics (PAST) version 3.21 reference manual. (2018).

  82. 82.

    Torrence, C. & Compo, G. P. A practical guide to wavelet analysis. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 79, 61–78 (1998).

  83. 83.

    Wagner, B. et al. The last 40 ka tephrostratigraphic record of Lake Ohrid, Albania and Macedonia: a very distal archive for ash dispersal from Italian volcanoes. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 177, 71–80 (2008).

  84. 84.

    Zanchetta, G. et al. Tephrostratigraphy, chronology and climatic events of the Mediterranean basin during the Holocene: an overview. Holocene 21, 33–52 (2011).

  85. 85.

    Siani, G., Sulpizio, R., Paterne, M. & Sbrana, A. Tephrostratigraphy study for the last 18,000 14C years in a deep-sea sediment sequence for the South Adriatic. Quat. Sci. Rev. 23, 2485–2500 (2004).

  86. 86.

    Albert, P. G. et al. Revisiting the Y-3 tephrostratigraphic marker: a new diagnostic glass geochemistry, age estimate, and details on its climatostratigraphical context. Quat. Sci. Rev. 118, 105–121 (2015).

  87. 87.

    Satow, C. et al. A new contribution to the Late Quaternary tephrostratigraphy of the Mediterranean: Aegean Sea core LC21. Quat. Sci. Rev. 117, 96–112 (2015).

  88. 88.

    Giaccio, B. et al. Isotopic (Sr–Nd) and major element fingerprinting of distal tephras: an application to the middle–late Pleistocene markers from the Colli Albani volcano, central Italy. Quat. Sci. Rev. 67, 190–206 (2013).

  89. 89.

    Petrosino, P., Jicha, B. R., Mazzeo, F. C. & Russo Ermolli, E. A high resolution tephrochronological record of MIS 14–12 in the Southern Apennines (Acerno basin, Italy). J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 274, 34–50 (2014).

  90. 90.

    Marra, F., Karner, D. B., Freda, C., Gaeta, M. & Renne, P. Large mafic eruptions at Alban Hills Volcanic District (central Italy): chronostratigraphy, petrography and eruptive behavior. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 179, 217–232 (2009).

  91. 91.

    Lindhorst, K. et al. Sedimentary and tectonic evolution of Lake Ohrid (Macedonia/Albania). Basin Res. 27, 84–101 (2015).

  92. 92.

    Le Bas, M. J., Le Maitre, R. W., Streckeisen, A., Zanettin, B. & IUGS Subcommission on the Systematics of Igneous Rocks. A chemical classification of volcanic rocks based on the total alkali-silica diagram. J. Petrol. 27, 745–750 (1986).

  93. 93.

    Melard, G. Algorithm AS 197: a fast algorithm for the exact likelihood of autoregressive-moving average models. Appl. Stat. 33, 104–114 (1984).

  94. 94.

    Zanchetta, G. et al. Aligning and synchronization of MIS5 proxy records from Lake Ohrid (FYROM) with independently dated Mediterranean archives: implications for DEEP core chronology. Biogeosciences 13, 2757–2768 (2016).

Download references


The Hydrobiological Institute in Ohrid (S. Trajanovski and G. Kostoski) and the Hydrometeorological Institute in Tirana (M. Sanxhaku and B. Lushaj) provided logistic support for site surveys and the scientific drilling campaign. Drilling was carried out by Drilling, Observation and Sampling of the Earth’s Continental Crust (DOSECC). A. Skinner provided logistic and technical advice before and during the drilling operation. The Scientific Collaboration on Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid (SCOPSCO) drilling project was funded by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), the German Ministry of Higher Education and Research, the German Research Foundation, the University of Cologne, the British Geological Survey, the INGV and CNR (both Italy), and the governments of the republics of North Macedonia and Albania. V. Scao collected the V5 tephra, which was 40Ar/39Ar dated with funding from the LEFE ‘INTERMED’ grant (CNRS-INSU) to S.N.

Author information

B.W. and H.V. designed the study. B.W. initiated and coordinated the SCOPSCO drilling project and drilling campaign. H.V. conceived major scientific ideas for this study. A.F. (sedimentology, chronology), T.F. (LOVECLIM modelling), T.D. (palynology), J.H.L. (isotope geochemistry) and L. Sadori (palynology) contributed and oversaw key datasets used in the study and coordinated the discussion and interpretations of proxy data groups and model results together with F.W.-C., M.J.L., E.R., T. Wilke and G.Z. Specific data were provided by A.B. (pollen, MIS 19–21, MIS 25–28, MIS 42–43), N.C.-N. (pollen, MIS 1–4, MIS 8, MIS 14–15), B.G. (tephrostratigraphy), S.J. (pollen, MIS 1–4, MIS 13–16, MIS 30), J.J. (palaeomagnetic data), K.K. (pollen, MIS 6–8, MIS 10, MIS 16–19, MIS 28–30, MIS 33), I.K. (pollen, MIS 11–12, MIS 15), A.K. (pollen, MIS 11–12, MIS 15), M.L. (trace elements), N.L. (tephrostratigraphy), A.M. (pollen, MIS 5–6, MIS 20–25, MIS 31–32), A.M.M. (pollen, MIS 6, MIS 34), S.N. (tephrochronology), N.N. (palaeomagnetic data), K.P. (pollen, MIS 7–8, MIS 35–43), O.P. (pollen, MIS 1–4, MIS 13–16, MIS 30), L.Sagnotti (palaeomagnetic data), G.S. (pollen, MIS 5–6), R.S. (tephrostratigraphy) and P.T. (pollen, MIS 6, MIS 34). S.K., K.L. and T. Wonik coordinated the seismic survey of Lake Ohrid, the selection of the coring location and the geophysical measurements needed for core correlation. A.G., M.M., J.M.R. and Z.L. contributed to the conception of the work. A.C., J.H., E.J., S.T. and X.Z. provided micropalaeontological and organic geochemistry data, which confirmed that the sediment succession from the DEEP site covers the entire history of Lake Ohrid. A.T. provided model infrastructure and resources. All authors contributed to the discussion and interpretation of the data and provided comments and suggestions to the manuscript.

Correspondence to Bernd Wagner.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature thanks Simon Blockley, Dirk Verschuren and Zhongshi Zhang for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Map of Lake Ohrid and its surrounding area.

Geology, topography and bathymetry were compiled from previous studies19,91 and geological maps of Albania and North Macedonia. The lake is located at an altitude of 693 m a.s.l. and has a maximum water depth of 293 m. The water depth at the DEEP drill site is 240 m.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Correlation of tephra layers at the DEEP site with tephra layers from mid-distal records.

ae, Bi-oxide plots of CaO versus FeOtotal (a), CaO versus Al2O3 (b), CaO versus TiO2 (c), Na2O versus K2O (d) and a total alkali versus silica diagram92 (e) show the correlation of OH-DP-2669 with the tephra layers SC1-35.30/SUL2-1/V5 and the differences to the Parmenide ash. fj, Bi-oxide plots of CaO versus FeOtotal (f), CaO versus Al2O3 (g), CaO versus TiO2 (h), Na2O versus K2O (i) and total alkali versus silica diagram (j) show the correlation of OH-DP-2898 with tephra SUL2-22 and the differences to SUL2-23, SUL2-27, SUL2-31, V4, V3 and the Pitagora ash. Error bars for the data of the Parmenide ash indicate the standard deviation54. Tephra ages, geochemical data, tephrostratigraphic discussion and references are provided in Extended Data Tables 1, 2 and the Methods. Source Data

Extended Data Fig. 3 Correlation of tephra layers OH-DP-2669 and V5 based on trace element compositions.

Trace element data of OH-DP-2669 support the correlation with tephra V5a/b52. a, Th versus Y. b, Th versus Zr. c, Th versus Nb. d, Th versus La. e, Th versus Ce. f, Th versus Pr. g, Th versus Nd. h, Th versus Gd. i, Th versus Yb. Error bars for the data of OH-DP-2669 represent uncertainties at a 95% confidence interval. ppm, parts per million.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Lake Ohrid LOVECLIM simulation data and sedimentary palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment proxies.

a, Simulated surface-air temperature (SAT) for the Lake Ohrid grid cell from the LOVECLIM simulation. b, Simulated precipitation amount for the Lake Ohrid grid cell from the LOVECLIM simulation. c, Lake Ohrid TOC concentrations. d, Lake Ohrid δ13C endogenic calcite in parts per thousand relative to VPDB. e, Lake Ohrid δ18O endogenic calcite in parts per thousand relative to VPDB. f, Lake Ohrid relative sedimentary quartz content. g, Lake Ohrid K intensities in kilo counts and displayed using a 11-point (pt) running mean. h, Lake Ohrid ratio of Ca/K intensities displayed using a 11-point running mean. i, Lake Ohrid Ca intensities in kilo counts and displayed using a 11-point running mean. j, Lake Ohrid TIC concentrations. k, Percentages of deciduous oak pollen at Lake Ohrid. l, Percentages of arboreal pollen excluding Pinus pollen at Lake Ohrid. Red and white diamonds indicate the position of radiometrically dated tephra layers, blue and white diamonds the position of reversals of Earth’s magnetic field in the Lake Ohrid sediment record. b, d, e, jl, Data are the same as in Fig. 2. Source Data

Extended Data Fig. 5 Data analysis.

a, b, Continuous wavelet transform on the percentage of TIC (a) and percentage of deciduous oak pollen (DOP; b) from Ohrid DEEP. Yellow, highest power; red, lowest power; grey contour, cone of influence; black contour, 5% significance level82 against red-noise background corrected for autocorrelation81,93. c, d, Least squares regression (red line) between band pass-filtered 18–25-kyr-old component of percentage of TIC (c) and the percentage of DOP against precession at a 1-kyr resolution (d). Blue lines indicate 95% bootstrapped (n = 1,999) confidence intervals. Significant negative responses to precession are seen in both proxies, with a stronger response in DOP. Partial datasets for the intervals <0.78 Myr ago, <1.2 Myr ago, <1.36 Myr ago indicate persistence of the correlation despite changes in lake ontogeny and global scale changes in boundary conditions. e, f, PLSR using TIC and DOP as predictive variables and LOVECLIM temperature (e) and precipitation (f) simulations as observations demonstrate significant explanatory power by the proxies on the simulation time series, particularly for precipitation. PLSR was performed using SIMCA 14 (Sartorius Stedim Biotech), using 1.4–33-kyr bandpass-filtered data to accommodate for slight age offsets between proxy and simulation data. Source Data

Extended Data Fig. 6 Lake Ohrid precipitation indicators and global monsoon records during MIS 5.

a, Ages of sapropels and humid phases in the eastern Mediterranean based on Soreq Cave speleothem δ18O data and U/Th chronology71. b, Simulated precipitation amount for the Lake Ohrid grid cell from the LOVECLIM simulation. c, Percentage of deciduous oak pollen at Lake Ohrid. d, Lake Ohrid TIC concentrations. e, Chinese Speleostack25 δ18O in parts per thousand relative to VPDB. Red and white diamonds indicate the position of radiometrically dated tephra layers in the Lake Ohrid record. The chronology of the MIS 5 interval in the Lake Ohrid DEEP site record is based on a previous study94. Source Data

Extended Data Fig. 7 Simulated Lake Ohrid precipitation for full-forcing run and sensitivity simulations.

a, Lake Ohrid precipitation (cm yr−1) for full-forcing simulation (black) and a simulation using only orbital forcing under a warm background climate (red). b, Black line as in a and a simulation using only orbital forcing under a cold background climate (blue). c, Black line as in a and a simulation using full-forcing except for a constant preindustrial Northern Hemisphere (NH) ice sheet. d, Black line as in a and a simulation using full-forcing except for constant preindustrial GHG concentrations. Note that the sensitivity simulations only cover the past 408 kyr (see Methods for details on the sensitivity simulations). Source Data

Extended Data Fig. 8 Mean seasonal cycle of precipitation in the Lake Ohrid grid cell from LOVECLIM model simulation and NOAA reanalysis data.

a, Reconstructed precipitation (cm yr−1) for the Lake Ohrid reanalysis grid cell. Data are based on monthly means. Dashed line indicates two standard deviations above the mean. b, Composite anomalies of 850 hPa geopotential height (m) associated with Lake Ohrid precipitation maxima shown in a and referring to the months shown in c. c, Monthly distribution of precipitation maxima shown in a. d, Mean seasonal cycle of simulated Lake Ohrid precipitation (cm yr−1) for all model years (green) and model years with annual mean precipitation exceeding two standard deviations (magenta). See also Fig. 3a. e, Mean seasonal cycle of Lake Ohrid precipitation (cm yr−1) derived from NOAA reanalysis data (blue) and simulated for the period from 1 kyr ago to present (red). The annual means were removed for better comparison and are provided in the panel. Source Data

Extended Data Table 1 Selected tephra layers from Lake Ohrid and their correlation with tephra layers of other records
Extended Data Table 2 Average compositions of OH-DP-2669 and OH-DP-2898 and potential equivalent correlations

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Source Data Fig. 2

Source Data Fig. 3

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 2

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 4

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 5

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 6

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 7

Source Data Extended Data Fig. 8

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.