Characterizing the Eemian-Weichselian transition in northwestern Europe with three multiproxy speleothem archives from the Belgian Han-sur-Lesse and Remouchamps cave systems

Stef Vansteenberge, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Genty, Dominique Blamart, Steven Goderis, Stijn J.M. Van Malderen, Frank Vanhaecke, Florent Hodel, David Gillikin, Camille Ek, Yves Quinif, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Philippe Claeys

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3 Scopus citations


Interglacial to glacial transitions represent the most drastic turnovers in the Quaternary climate system. Yet, millennial-scaled climate variability and stochastic internal variability that result in (inter)glacial transitions remain poorly understood. Here, three speleothems from two different cave systems in Belgium are investigated to characterize the Eemian to early Weichselian transition. The speleothems show high reproducibility for δ 13 C, interpreted as a proxy for past vegetation activity, controlled by type of vegetation above the cave. All three speleothems show a drastic increase in δ 13 C between 118 and 117 ka, reflecting a rapid change in vegetation from last interglacial temperate tree species towards glacial open-grass vegetation. This transition shows a strong affinity with the Late Eemian Aridity Pulse (LEAP) at 118 ± 1 ka, previously identified in pollen records from Western Germany. An age of 117.7 ± 0.5 ka is determined for the start of this transition in the Belgian speleothems. The speleothem records show a distinct transition in the proxies between Eemian optimum conditions and increased variability during the glacial inception and therefore the Eemian-Weichselian transition is set at 117.7 ± 0.5 ka in the speleothem records. High-resolution trace element analysis shows that the transition is initiated by a cooling pulse followed by a decrease in precipitation. Through comparison with other archives, including North-Atlantic sedimentary records, it is proposed that the transition at 117.7 ka constitutes an internal climate response caused by a substantial input of freshwater from degraded ice-sheets by the end of the Eemian (∼120-118 ka).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank M. Gewelt for the first analysis of RSM-17, as well as the cave management of Han-sur-Lesse and Remouchamps Cave for allowing us to retrieve the samples and study the cave environment. We also thank T. Goovaerts for the treatment of the speleothem samples, D. Verstraeten for the lab assistance at the VUB stable isotope lab and J.R.M. Allen and B. Huntley for providing the data of Lago Grande di Monticchio. S. Va. is funded by the VUB Strategic Research Program . P. C. thanks Hercules foundation for the upgrade of the VUB stable isotope lab. Han-8 speleothem was sampled in the frame of the EU H2020 Past4Future Project. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that significantly improved the quality of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Glacial inception
  • Interglacial(s)
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Speleothems
  • Stable isotopes
  • Western Europe


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