Holocene temperature history of northern Iceland inferred from subfossil midges

Yarrow Axford*, Gifford H. Miller, Áslaug Geirsdóttir, Peter G. Langdon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Scopus citations


The Holocene temperature history of Iceland is not well known, despite Iceland's climatically strategic location at the intersection of major surface currents in the high-latitude North Atlantic. Existing terrestrial records reveal spatially heterogeneous changes in Iceland's glacier extent, vegetation cover, and climate over the Holocene, but these records are temporally discontinuous and mostly qualitative. This paper presents the first quantitative estimates of temperatures throughout the entire Holocene on Iceland. Mean July temperatures are inferred based upon subfossil midge (Chironomidae) assemblages from three coastal lakes in northern Iceland. Midge data from each of the three lakes indicate broadly similar temperature trends, and suggest that the North Icelandic coast experienced relatively cool early Holocene summers and gradual warming throughout the Holocene until after 3 ka. This contrasts with many sites on Iceland and around the high-latitude Northern Hemisphere that experienced an early to mid-Holocene "thermal maximum" in response to enhanced summer insolation forcing. Our results suggest a heightened temperature gradient across Iceland in the early Holocene, with suppressed terrestrial temperatures along the northern coastal fringe, possibly as a result of sea surface conditions on the North Iceland shelf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3344-3358
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number25-28
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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