AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on stalagmite reconstructions

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on June 15, 2010

This is a list of papers on the climate reconstructions from stalagmites. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

High-resolution isotope records of early Holocene rapid climate change from two coeval stalagmites of Katerloch Cave, Austria – Boch et al. (2009) “Two coeval stalagmites from Katerloch Cave show pronounced intervals of low δ18O values around 8.2, 9.1, and 10.0 kyr (all ages are reported before the year 2000 AD) and represent an inorganic U–Th dated climate archive from the southeast of the European Alps, a region where only very few well-dated climate records exist. The O isotope curves, providing near-annual resolution, allow a direct comparison to the Greenland ice core records, as temperature was the primary factor controlling the O isotopic composition of Katerloch speleothems.” [Full text]

Modern stalagmite δ18O: Instrumental calibration and forward modelling – Baker & Bradley (2009) “Here, two approaches that can quantify the climate signal contained with stalagmite δ18O are discussed. Firstly, linear regression based approaches are reviewed, which correlate stalagmite δ18O with instrumental climate parameters such as temperature and rainfall. The advantages and disadvantages of complex linear regression approaches that attempt to account for groundwater mixing within the karst aquifer are discussed. Secondly, a forward modelling approach is introduced, where stalagmite δ18O is modelled from rainfall δ18O, surface climate parameters and a simple karst hydrology model. Using a case study from Gibraltar, this latter approach demonstrates that between stalagmite variability in δ18O of the order of 1‰ can be explained solely by differences in karst hydrology. Forward modelling suggests that a similar variability in δ18O might be observed between stalagmites within a cave, or between caves within a homogenous climate region, and highlights the difficulty in attempting to use δ18O as a paleo-thermometer.”

Analysis of the climate signal contained within δ18O and growth rate parameters in two Ethiopian stalagmites – Baker et al. (2007) “We combine surface and cave climate monitoring with multiple stalagmite parameters to help understand and calibrate the climate records contained within stalagmites from a region with strong rainfall seasonality. Two actively growing stalagmites from Ethiopia were analysed in order to investigate the climate signal contained within δ18O and growth rate parameters. The δ18O and growth rate of the two stalagmites give different responses to surface climate due to variations in the climate signal transfer. Both stalagmites (Merc-1 and Asfa-3) have a climate response that is seasonal; however this signal is subsequently smoothed by the mixing of event and storage water within the aquifer. Merc-1 responds more to high frequency (‘event’) climate, due to a greater ratio of event to storage water in this sample, whereas Asfa-3 responds more to low frequency (‘storage’) climate. In addition, different parameters respond to different seasons.” [Full text]

A precisely dated climate record for the last 9 kyr from three high alpine stalagmites, Spannagel Cave, Austria – Vollweiler et al. (2006) “Here we use the δ18O time-series of three stalagmites from the high alpine Spannagel cave (Austria) which grew in small distance from each other to construct a precisely dated, continuous δ18O curve for the last 9 kyr (COMNISPA). This speleothem record is not influenced by effects of kinetic isotope fractionation due to the low temperatures in the cave. Thus, the variations in δ18O can be interpreted in terms of past climate change. COMNISPA exhibits several oscillations within the Holocene, and their timing and duration is in agreement with that documented by other alpine archives.” [Full text]

Climate variability in the SE Alps of Italy over the past 17 000 years reconstructed from a stalagmite record – Frisia et al. (2005) “Stalagmite SV1 from Grotta Savi, located at the SE margin of the European Alps (Italy), is the first Alpine speleothem that continuously spans the past c. 17kyr. Extension rate and δ18Oc record for the Lateglacial probably reflect a combination of temperature and rainfall, with rainfall exerting the dominant effect. Low speleothem calcite δ18Oc values were recorded from c. 14.5 and 12.35 kyr, during GI-1 (Bølling— Allerød) interstadial, which in our interpretation, was warm and wet. The GS-1 (Younger Dryas) was characterized by a shift to heavier δ18Oc, coinciding with δ13Cc enrichment and extremely low extension rate (<8 μm/year). These characteristics indicate that GS-1 climate was cool and dry in the SE Alps." [Full text]

Reconstruction of temperature in the Central Alps during the past 2000 yr from a δ18O stalagmite record – Mangini et al. (2005) “The precisely dated isotopic composition of a stalagmite from Spannagel Cave in the Central Alps is translated into a highly resolved record of temperature at high elevation during the past 2000 yr. Temperature maxima during the Medieval Warm Period between 800 and 1300 AD are in average about 1.7 °C higher than the minima in the Little Ice Age and similar to present-day values. The high correlation of this record to Δ14C suggests that solar variability was a major driver of climate in Central Europe during the past 2 millennia.” [Full text]

Stalagmite growth and palaeo-climate: an inverse approach – Kaufmann & Dreybrodt (2005) “We describe the complicated growth of a stalagmite with a simple mathematical model, in which both the growth rate and the equilibrium diameter of stalagmites are functions of palaeo-climate variables. Hence, inverting a given stalagmite stratigraphy in terms of growth rate and equilibrium diameter can in principle recover the palaeo-climate signal. The strongly nonlinear dependence of these two geometrical parameters, however, limits the success of a formal inversion of stratigraphical data. In this paper, we explore the resolving power of both growth rate and equilibrium diameter data for the palaeo-climate signals temperature, carbon-dioxide concentration, and precipitation. We use numerically generated stalagmite stratigraphies as observational data, thus we know beforehand the palaeo-climate signal contained in the stratigraphic record. Our results indicate that both variations in carbon-dioxide concentrations (as a proxy of soil cover) and drip interval (as a proxy of precipitation) can be recovered from the stratigraphy. However, temperature variations are poorly resolved.” [Full text]

Stalagmite growth and palaeo-climate: the numerical perspective – Kaufmann (2003) “The growth of stalagmites can be approximated by a simple mathematical model, which depends on growth rate and equilibrium radius. These two parameters are controlled by the climate. Temperature variations derived from ice and deep-sea core data, together with models for changes in precipitation and soil cover, are used to derive stalagmite stratigraphies, which reflect the palaeo-climate variations imposed. In general, stalagmite growth is strongly correlated to temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide available in the soil. Furthermore, precipitation is correlated to the stalagmite diameter. However, several assumptions need to be made: (i) A functional relationship between temperature on the one hand and precipitation and soil cover on the other needs to be established. (ii) The kinetics of calcite dissolution and precipitation needs to be assigned, either under soil and epikarst conditions open to the atmosphere or under fractured rock conditions closed from the atmosphere. These assumptions are difficult to access from field data, and therefore a stalagmite stratigraphy can be ambiguous and not easily converted back into an unknown palaeo-climate signal.” [Full text]

Indian Ocean Climate and an Absolute Chronology over Dansgaard/Oeschger Events 9 to 13 – Burns et al. (2003) “Oxygen-isotope ratios of a stalagmite from Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean provide a record of changes in monsoon precipitation and climate for the time period from 42 to 55 thousand years before the present. The pattern of precipitation bears a striking resemblance to the oxygen-isotope record from Greenland ice cores, with increased tropical precipitation associated with warm periods in the high northern latitudes. The largest change, at the onset of interstadial 12, occurred very rapidly, in about 25 years. The chronology of the events found in our record requires a reevaluation of previously published time scales for climate events during this period.” [Full text]

Climate variability in central China over the last 1270 years revealed by high-resolution stalagmite records – Paulsen et al. (2003) “Oxygen and carbon isotopic variations in the upper section of a stalagmite (SF-1) from Buddha Cave (33°40′N 109°05′E) dated by 230Th/234U 210Pb and lamination counting to a time resolution as fine as 1–3 years have recorded climate changes in central China for the last 1270 years. The changes include those corresponding to the Medieval Warm Period Little Ice Age and 20th-century warming lending support to the global extent of these events. The isotopic records also show cycles of 33, 22, 11, 9.6, and 7.2 years. The 33-year cycle could well represent the ~35-year periodicity of climate fluctuations previously recognized in China and Europe. Cycles of 22, 11, and 9.6 years have often been associated with the Sunspot or lunar-orbit variations. The 7.2-year cycle was recently identified also in tree-ring records from an area close to Buddha Cave. These cycles suggest that external forcing (e.g. solar irradiance) may affect the summer monsoon over eastern China. The general consistency between the climate characteristics inferred from the stable isotope records of SF-1 and those from other proxy records underscores the value of stalagmites as recorders of paleoclimate.” [Full text]

Precise dating of Dansgaard–Oeschger climate oscillations in western Europe from stalagmite data – Genty et al. (2003) “Here we present carbon and oxygen isotope records from a stalagmite collected in southwest France which have been precisely dated using 234U/230Th ratios. We find rapid climate oscillations coincident with the established Dansgaard–Oeschger events between 83,000 and 32,000 years ago in both isotope records. The oxygen isotope signature is similar to a record from Soreq cave, Israel4, and deep-sea records5, 6, indicating the large spatial scale of the climate oscillations. The signal in the carbon isotopes gives evidence of drastic and rapid vegetation changes in western Europe, an important site in human cultural evolution. We also find evidence for a long phase of extremely cold climate in southwest France between 61.2 ± 0.6 and 67.4 ± 0.9 kyr ago.”

Holocene Forcing of the Indian Monsoon Recorded in a Stalagmite from Southern Oman – Fleitmann et al. (2003) “A high-resolution oxygen-isotope record from a thorium-uranium–dated stalagmite from southern Oman reflects variations in the amount of monsoon precipitation for the periods from 10.3 to 2.7 and 1.4to 0.4thousand years before the present (ky B.P.). Between 10.3 and 8 ky B.P., decadal to centennial variations in monsoon precipitation are in phase with temperature fluctuations recorded in Greenland ice cores, indicating that early Holocene monsoon intensity is largely controlled by glacial boundary conditions. After ~8 ky B.P., monsoon precipitation decreases gradually in response to changing Northern Hemisphere summer solar insolation, with decadal to multidecadal variations in monsoon precipitation being linked to solar activity.” [Full text]

Cyclic rapid warming on centennial-scale revealed by a 2650-year stalagmite record of warm season temperature – Tan et al. (2003) “A 2650-year (BC665-AD1985) warm season (MJJA: May, June, July, August) temperature reconstruction is derived from a correlation between thickness variations in annual layers of a stalagmite from Shihua Cave, Beijing, China and instrumental meteorological records. Observations of soil CO2 and drip water suggest that the temperature signal is amplified by the soil-organism-CO2 system and recorded by the annual layer series. Our reconstruction reveals that centennial-scale rapid warming occurred repeatedly following multicentenial cooling trends during the last millennia. These results correlate with different records from the Northern Hemisphere, indicating that the periodic alternation between cool and warm periods on a sub-millennial scale had a sub-hemispherical influence.” [Full text]

Late Holocene annual growth in three Alpine stalagmites records the influence of solar activity and the North Atlantic Oscillation on winter climate – Frisia et al. (2003) “Annual growth rates and the ratio of dark to light-colored calcite within single annual laminae in three contemporaneously deposited Holocene speleothems from Grotta di Ernesto, an Alpine cave in northern Italy, respond to changes in surface temperature rather than precipitation. Based on monitoring of present-day calcite growth, and correlation with instrumental data for surface climatic conditions, we interpret a higher ratio of dark to light-colored calcite and the simultaneous thinning of annual laminae as indicative of colder-than-present winters. Such dark and thin laminae occur in those parts of the three stalagmites deposited from AD 1650 to 1713 and from AD 1798 to 1840, as reconstructed through lamina counting. These periods correspond to the well-known Maunder and Dalton Minima of solar activity. An 11-yr cyclicity in growth rate, coupled with reduced calcite deposition during the historic minima of solar activity, is indicative of a solar influence on lamina thickness. Spectral analysis of the lamina thickness data also suggests that the North Atlantic Oscillation variability influenced winter temperatures. Based on the present-day controls on cave calcite formation, we infer that high-frequency changes in solar activity modulated the seasonal duration of soil CO2 production.”

A three thousand year record of North Atlantic climate – Proctor et al. (2002) “Annual band counting on three radiometrically dated stalagmites from NW Scotland, provides a record of growth rate variations for the last 3000 years. Over the period of instrumental meteorological records we have a good historical calibration with local climate (mean annual temperature/mean annual precipitation), regional climate (North Atlantic Oscillation) and sea surface temperature (SST; strongest at 65-70°N, 15-20°W), although the correlation with the latter breaks down prior to the instrumental record. This suggests that the climatic factors that force NW Scottish climate and therefore our stalagmite growth varied through time, and include winter NAO strength, the strength of the thermohaline circulation and possibly solar output. Spectral analysis was performed on the stalagmite growth rate time series. A spectral frequency of 50-70 years is predominant in two stalagmites that were deposited from 1000 to 3000 BP; a slightly longer frequency of 72-94 years is dominant from 1000 BP to present. These are the same as that observed in ocean GCM output for the North Atlantic region SSTs. Our stalagmites provide high resolution, precisely dated evidence of a similar periodicity predominating over the last 3000 years in a climate proxy record known to be sensitive to changes in forcing functions relevant to the North Atlantic sector.”

Correlation between high-resolution climate records from a Nanjing stalagmite and GRIP ice core during the last glaciation – Wang et al. (2001) “A 400-mm-long stalagmite from Tangshan Cave, Nanjing has been analyzed by a high-precision TIMS-U series dating method and also determined for oxygen and carbon stable isotopic compositions. The results provided a high-resolution paleoclimate record for eastern China during a time interval (from 54 000 to 19 000 aBP) of the last glaciation. The continuous record of oxygen-18 variations in the stalagmite, indicating a precipitation history of the East Asian monsoon, shows not only signals of the Heinrich events, but also the Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles which are first found in the last glacial climate record of the East Asian monsoon area. Although the stalagmite-based climatic signals match well with the GRIP ice core record, some differences between the two records can be recognized: (1) The last glacial climate changes in eastern China exhibited a long-term remarkably cooling trend, superimposed on which were four successive Bond’s cycles illustrated by the δ18O curve. This strong cooling tendency may be an effect of the strong summer monsoon event during the MIS 3 over the Tibetan Plateau. (2) There exist some phase differences of 1000–2000 years between the cooling events in the stalagmite-based climate signal and the GRIP ice core record. Such differences should be further verified by calibrations of multiple dating methods.”

Late Holocene Climate and Cultural Changes in the Southwestern United States – Polyak & Asmerom (2001) “Columnar stalagmites in caves of the Guadalupe Mountains during the late Holocene record a 4000-year annually resolved climate history for the southwestern United States. Annual banding, hiatuses, and high-precision uranium-series dating show a present day-like climate from 4000 to 3000 years ago, following a drier middle Holocene. A distinctly wetter and cooler period from 3000 to 800 years ago was followed by a period of present day-like conditions, with the exception of a slightly wetter interval from 440 to 290 years before the present. The stalagmite record correlates well with the archaeological record of changes in cultural activities of indigenous people. Such climate change may help to explain evidence of dwelling abandonment and population redistribution.”

A thousand year speleothem proxy record of North Atlantic climate from Scotland – Proctor et al. (2000) “Luminescent organic matter in stalagmites may form annual bands, allowing growth rate to be precisely determined. Stalagmite growth rate is controlled by precipitation, so annual bands can be used to derive long precipitation records. A continuously banded stalagmite from a cave in NW Scotland was used to provide a 1100 year high-resolution record of precipitation. The location of the cave means that precipitation is closely linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation, for which a record is also derived. This suggests that changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation state was an important control on European climate over the past millennium.” [Full text]

Climate and Vegetation History of the Midcontinent from 75 to 25 ka: A Speleothem Record from Crevice Cave, Missouri, USA – Dorale et al. (1998) “Four Missouri stalagmites yield consistent overlapping records of oxygen and carbon isotopic changes and provide a climate and vegetation history with submillennial resolution from 75 to 25 thousand years ago (ka). The thorium-230-dated records reveal that between 75 and 55 ka, the midcontinental climate oscillated on millennial time scales between cold and warm, and vegetation alternated among forest, savanna, and prairie. Temperatures were highest and prairie vegetation peaked between 59 and 55 ka. Climate cooled and forest replaced grassland at 55 ka, when global ice sheets began to build during the early part of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 3.”

A High-Resolution Record of Holocene Climate Change in Speleothem Calcite from Cold Water Cave, Northeast Iowa – Dorale et al. (1992) “High-precision uranium-thorium mass spectrometric chronology and 18O-13C isotopic analysis of speleothem calcite from Cold Water Cave in northeast Iowa have been used to chart mid-Holocene climate change. Significant shifts in 18O and 13C isotopic values coincide with well-documented Holocene vegetation changes. Temperature estimates based on 18O/16O ratios suggest that the climate warmed rapidly by about 3°C at 5900 years before present and then cooled by 4°C at 3600 years before present. Initiation of a gradual increase in 13C at 5900 years before present suggests that turnover of the forest soil biomass was slow and that equilibrium with prairie vegetation was not attained by 3600 years before present.”


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