Assessment of drought over the past two millennia using near-shore sediment cores from a Canadian boreal lake

Heather A. Haig, Melanie V. Kingsbury, Kathleen R. Laird, Peter R. Leavitt, Robyn Laing, Brian F. Cumming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Lack of long-term studies on drought in the boreal region of northwest Ontario limits our ability to assess the vulnerability of this region to climate change. We investigated changes in diatoms, scaled chrysophytes, and sedimentary pigments in two near-shore cores from Gall Lake to infer limnological and water-level changes over the last two millennia. The two coring locations, at modern water depths of 7.5 and 11.5 m, were selected to contrast inferences for past lake level based on distance from the modern water-depth boundary between predominantly benthic and planktonic diatom assemblages in surface sediments (6.0 m). Diatom-inferred depth inferences were more variable in the core from 7.5-m water depth, consistent with the hypothesis that the greatest changes occurred at water depths closest to the benthic:planktonic boundary. Both sites revealed a pronounced drought from ~AD 950 to 1300, synchronous with the medieval climate anomaly (MCA). This finding suggests a northeast expansion of the arid MCA into northwest Ontario, extending the known spatial extent of this megadrought. Scaled chrysophytes and sedimentary pigments suggest a recent increase in thermal stratification. Our findings indicate this region is more susceptible to changes in moisture than was previously suspected based on the instrumental record for the past century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Brendan Wiltse, Karlee Flear and Susan Ma for assistance with fieldwork. Michael Lewis and Thane Anderson carried out the seismic profiling, which provided invaluable information for choosing coring locations. Water chemistry was provided through the assistance of Andrew Paterson at the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Dorset Environmental Center. HPLC training was provided to H.A.H. by Zoraida Quiñones-Rivera. Pollen samples used in radiocarbon analysis were processed at LacCore, LRC, University of Minnesota. Thomas Brown at LLNL carried out the radiocarbon analysis. Funding for this project came from an NSERC Collaborative Research Develop Grant in partnership with Manitoba Hydro.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Chrysophytes
  • Climate
  • Diatoms
  • Drought
  • Paleolimnology
  • Pigments


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