Climatic variability during the last millennium in Western Iceland from lake sediment records

TitleClimatic variability during the last millennium in Western Iceland from lake sediment records
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsHolmes, N, Langdon, PG, Caseldine, CJ, Wasteg\aard, S, Leng, MJ, Croudace, IW, Davies, SM
JournalThe Holocene
ISBN Number0959683615
Keywordschironomids, Iceland, little ice age, medieval climate anomaly, North Atlantic Oscillation, october 2015, palaeolimnology, received 30 june 2015, revised manuscript accepted 12

The aim of this research was to create a decadal-scale terrestrial quantitative palaeoclimate record for NW Iceland from lake sediments for the last millennium. Geochemical, stable isotope and chironomid reconstructions were obtained from a lake sequence constrained by tephra deposits on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, western Iceland. Obtaining a quantitative record proved problematic, but the qualitative chironomid record showed clear trends associated with past summer temperatures, and the sedimentological records provided evidence for past changes in precipitation, mediated through catchment soil in-wash. When the full range of chronological uncertainty is considered, four clear phases of climatic conditions were identified: (1) a relatively warm phase between AD 1020 and 1310; (2) a relatively stable period between AD 1310 and 1510, cooler than the preceding period but still notably warmer than the second half of the millennium; (3) a consistent reduction of temperatures between AD 1560 and 1810, with the coolest period between AD 1680 and 1810; and (4) AD 1840–2000 has temperatures mainly warmer than in the preceding two centuries, with a rising trend and increased variability from c. AD 1900 onwards. The reconstructions show clearly that the first half of the millennium experienced warmer climatic conditions than the second half, with a return to the warmer climate only occurring in the last c. 100 years. Much of the variability of the chironomid record can be linked to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The reconstructions presented can track low-frequency and long-term trends effectively and consistently but high-resolution and calibrated quantitative records remain more of a challenge – not just in finding optimal sedimentary deposits but also in finding the most reliable proxy. It is this that presents the real challenge for Holocene climate reconstruction from this key area of the North Atlantic.