Holocene temperatures and isotopes of precipitation in Northwest Greenland recorded in lacustrine organic materials

G. Everett Lasher*, Yarrow Axford, Jamie M. McFarlin, Meredith A. Kelly, Erich C. Osterberg, Max B. Berkelhammer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Reconstructions of Holocene lake water isotopic composition based upon subfossil aquatic organic material offer new insights into Arctic climate. We present quantitative estimates of warmth during the Holocene Thermal Maximum in northwest Greenland, inferred from oxygen isotopes of chironomid head capsules and aquatic moss preserved in lake sediments. δ18O values of chironomids from surface sediments of multiple Greenland lakes indicate that these subfossil remains record the δ18O values of the lake water in which they grow. Our lake water δ18O reconstruction is supported by downcore agreement with δ18O values in aquatic moss and chironomid remains. δ18O of both organic materials from Secret Lake decrease after 4 ka (ka = thousands of years ago) by 3‰ into the Neoglacial. We argue that lake water at Secret Lake primarily reflects precipitation δ18O values, which is strongly correlated with air temperature in NW Greenland, and that this signal is biased towards summer and early autumn conditions. Other factors may have influenced Secret Lake δ18O values through the Holocene, including evaporation of lake water and changing seasonality and source of precipitation. The maximum early Holocene summer and early autumn-biased temperature anomaly at Secret Lake is 2.5–4 °C warmer than present from 7.7 (the beginning of our record) to ∼6 ka. The maximum late Holocene cold anomaly (which includes the Little Ice Age) is 1.5–3 °C colder than present. These ranges of possible temperature anomalies reflect uncertainty in the δ18O – temperature relationship for precipitation at the study site through the Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-55
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 15 2017


  • Chironomids
  • Greenland
  • Holocene
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Paleolimnology
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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