Holocene temperature history at the western Greenland Ice Sheet margin reconstructed from lake sediments

Yarrow Axford*, Shanna Losee, Jason P. Briner, Donna R. Francis, Peter G. Langdon, Ian R. Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

Predicting the response of the Greenland Ice Sheet to future climate change presents a major challenge to climate science. Paleoclimate data from Greenland can provide empirical constraints on past cryospheric responses to climate change, complementing insights from contemporary observations and from modeling. Here we examine sedimentary records from five lakes near Jakobshavn Isbræ in central West Greenland to investigate the timing and magnitude of major Holocene climate changes, for comparison with glacial geologic reconstructions from the region. A primary objective of this study is to constrain the timing and magnitude of maximum warmth during the early to middle Holocene positive anomaly in summer insolation. Temperature reconstructions from subfossil insect (chironomid) assemblages suggest that summer temperatures were warmer than present by at least 7.1 ka (the beginning of the North Lake record; ka = thousands of years before present), and that the warmest millennia of the Holocene occurred in the study area between 6 and 4 ka. Previous studies in the Jakobshavn region have found that the local Greenland Ice Sheet margin was most retracted behind its present position between 6 and 5 ka, and here we use chironomids to estimate that local summer temperatures were 2-3 °C warmer than present during that time of minimum ice sheet extent. As summer insolation declined through the late Holocene, summer temperatures cooled and the local ice sheet margin expanded. Gradual, insolation-driven millennial-scale temperature trends in the study area were punctuated by several abrupt climate changes, including a major transient event recorded in all five lakes between 4.3 and 3.2 ka, which overlaps in timing with abrupt climate changes previously documented around the North Atlantic region and farther afield at ∼4.2 ka.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-100
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume59
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Chironomidae
  • Greenland
  • Holocene thermal maximum
  • Jakobshavn
  • Lake sediments
  • Neoglaciation
  • Paleoclimate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology

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