A 5000-year lacustrine sediment oxygen isotope record of late Holocene climate change in Newfoundland, Canada

Matthew S. Finkenbinder, Byron A. Steinman, Broxton W. Bird, Ellen C. Heilman, Alexandria R. Aspey, Samuel Z. Mark, Nathan D. Stansell, Alejandro Fernandez, Sid P. Halsor, Mark B. Abbott

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2 Scopus citations


The spatiotemporal patterns and underlying causes of climate variations spanning the mid-to late-Holocene in the North Atlantic region are largely unsettled. Here, we present a decadally resolved carbonate oxygen isotope (δ18O) record spanning the last ∼5000 calibrated years before present (cal yr BP) from Norman's Pond, a small, hydrologically open lake located in west-central Newfoundland, Canada. Stable isotope data from regional lakes, rivers, and precipitation samples indicate the δ18O record primarily reflects changes in the integrated, annual δ18O of precipitation, which is largely controlled by local atmospheric temperature and to a lesser extent, changes in the seasonality of precipitation. The record exhibits a general trend of decreasing δ18O values over the last ∼5000 cal yr BP that is consistent with gradually declining Boreal summer insolation and long-term cooling. Large decadal to centennial timescale fluctuations in δ18O values occurred during the last millennium, with persistent low δ18O values during the early Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA, 950 to 1250 CE) and more variable and low values across the Little Ice Age (LIA, 1450 to 1850 CE). Relatively low δ18O values during the early MCA at ∼950 cal yr BP (∼1000 CE) suggest colder temperatures in Newfoundland and/or an increase in cold-season or decrease in warm-season precipitation across the island. MCA δ18O values are lower than those of the LIA, revealing that climate conditions in Newfoundland were variable and differed from the broader North Atlantic region. For example, the shift to very low δ18O during the early MCA is coincident with a transition to colder sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Labrador Sea region, which was potentially triggered by melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and alpine glaciers and ice caps in/around Baffin Bay, and subsequent delivery of cold waters further south via the Labrador Current. The early MCA interval of inferred cooling is coincident with Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland at ∼929 cal yr BP (∼1021 CE). Subsequent low and variable δ18O during the LIA suggests regional shifts in the seasonality of precipitation and/or cooling, consistent with other terrestrial climate records from the region. Proxy evidence from Norman's Pond therefore reinforces the idea of substantial spatiotemporal variability in climatic change in the broader North Atlantic region since at least the mid-Holocene, and in particular during the MCA, when cooler conditions prevailed in Newfoundland as a result of lower offshore sea surface temperatures that were likely driven by greater meltwater delivery via the Labrador current.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107376
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Feb 15 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by startup funds from Finkenbinder, a Faculty Development Fund research grant from Wilkes University to Finkenbinder, a Mentoring Committee Grant from Wilkes University to Finkenbinder, and a Geological Society of America undergraduate student research grant to Heilman. We would like to thank Sophie Lehmann and Shannon Christiansen at the University of Pittsburgh for assistance with core imaging, and Ryan Wysocki and Emma Sukowaski at Wilkes University for assistance with laboratory work. We thank the editor Patrick Rioual and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Carbonate oxygen isotopes
  • Little ice age
  • Medieval climate anomaly
  • Newfoundland
  • North atlantic
  • Paleolimnology


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