The structure of Holocene climate change in mid-latitude North America

Bryan N. Shuman, Jeremiah Marsicek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


A sequence of long-term and rapid changes during the Holocene appears in a network of 40 well-resolved paleoclimate datasets from mid-latitude North America, including records of pollen-inferred temperatures, alkenone-derived sea-surface temperatures (SSTs), lake-level changes, dust accumulation, and lake isotopes from Idaho to Maine. Statistical analyses reveal that changes in insolation and the Laurentide Ice Sheet explain 51.7% of the variance in the records, especially multi-millennial trends, but peak rates of change indicate additional rapid changes at ca. 10.8, 9.4, 8.3, 7.0, 5.5-5.2, 4.7, 2.1, and 0.9 ka. Step changes between 9.4 and 8.3 ka relate to ice sheet dynamics that warmed much of the region, and changes at 5.5 ka were the largest since the demise of the ice sheet. The shift at 5.5 ka initiated widespread cooling and increases in effective moisture, which culminated in the coolest, wettest millennia in most areas after 2.1 ka. Replicated evidence from multiple records also shows a spatially-varied set of multi-century fluctuations including 1) low temperatures and high effective moisture at 5.5-4.8 ka in the mid-continent and 2) repeated phases of low SSTs, cool summers, and drought superimposed upon long cooling, moistening trends in eastern North American since 5.5 ka.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-51
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by NSF ( BCS-0845129 ; DEB-1146297 ) and Wyoming Water Research Program/ USGS funding to B.S., as well as a NASA Space Grant Fellowship to J.M. (# NNX10AO95H ). We thank contributors of data to the NOAA Paleoclimate and Neotoma Databases; P. Henne, M. Serravezza and W. Oswald for making data available; two anonymous reviewers, D. R. Foster, and T. Webb III for comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Abrupt change
  • Climate change
  • Holocene
  • North America
  • Precipitation
  • Temperature

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • NLP
  • COLO


Dive into the research topics of 'The structure of Holocene climate change in mid-latitude North America'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this