Late Holocene change in climate and atmospheric circulation inferred from geochemical records at Kepler Lake, south-central Alaska

A. W. Gonyo, Zicheng Yu, G. E. Bebout

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Climate records during the last millennium are essential in placing recent anthropogenic-induced climate change into the context of natural climatic variability. However, detailed records are still sparse in Alaska, and these records would help elucidate climate patterns and possible forcing mechanisms. Here we present a multiple-proxy sedimentary record from Kepler Lake in south-central Alaska to reconstruct climatic and environmental changes over the last 800 years. Two short cores (85 and 101 cm long) from this groundwater-fed marl lake provide a detailed stable isotope and sediment lithological record with chronology based on four AMS 14C dates on terrestrial macrofossils and 210Pb analysis. The δ 18O values of inorganic calcite (CaCO 3) range from -17. 0 to -15. 7 ‰, with the highest values during the period of 1450-1850 AD, coeval with the well-documented Little Ice Age (LIA) cold interval in Alaska. The high δ 18O values during the cold LIA are interpreted as reflecting shifts in atmospheric circulation. A weakening of the wintertime Aleutian low pressure system residing over the Gulf of Alaska during the LIA would have resulted in 18O-enriched winter precipitation as well as a colder and possibly drier winter climate in south-central Alaska. Also, elevated calcite contents of >80 % during the LIA reflect a lowering of lake level and/or enhanced seasonality (warmer summer and colder winter), as calcite precipitation in freshwater lakes is primarily a function of peak summer temperature and water depth. This interpretation is also supported by high δ 13C values, likely reflecting high aquatic productivity or increased residence times of the lake water during lower lake levels. The lower lake levels and warmer summers would have increased evaporative enrichment in 18O, also contributing to the high δ 18O values during the LIA. Our results indicate that changes in atmospheric circulation were an important component of climate change during the last millennium, exerting strong influence on regional climate in Alaska and the Arctic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-67
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Alaska
  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Climate change
  • Last millennium
  • Late Holocene
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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