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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • charcoal
  • megadrought
  • Quebec
  • abrupt climate change
  • polar front

Index Terms

  • 1605 Global Change: Abrupt/rapid climate change
  • 0426 Biogeosciences: Biosphere/atmosphere interactions
  • 1826 Hydrology: Geomorphology: hillslope
  • 1620 Global Change: Climate dynamics



Evidence for Climate Teleconnections Between Greenland and the Sierra Nevada of California During the Holocene, Including the 8200 and 5200 Climate Events

Stephen F. Wathen

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, California, USA

Abrupt climate change (ACC) has had significant impacts on environments and human cultures in the past. The extent and potential causes of ACC events (ACCEs) are thus important questions to explore. An 8500 year macrocharcoal record was developed from Coburn Lake, Sierra Nevada, and compared with published high-resolution paleoclimate and paleofire records from the Sierra Nevada, eastern Canada, and Greenland arriving at the following conclusions. Temperatures were generally hot or rising at the beginning of long-term severe droughts (megadroughts) in the Sierra Nevada. For the most part, severe fires occurred at Coburn Lake at the beginning of severe droughts, suggesting a response by vegetation and slopes to ACC. There was also strong synchronicity between the beginnings of droughts and fires at Coburn Lake and climate and fire events in eastern Canada and Greenland. Evidence is presented that (1) both the 8200 and 5200 ACCEs occurred in the Sierra Nevada and (2) as severe droughts were beginning in the Sierra Nevada, severe droughts were ending in Greenland. Coburn Lake charcoal peaks were also synchronous with the general pattern of soot deposition onto Greenland, reportedly from fires in eastern Canada, from 8500 to 3000 years ago. The beginnings of severe droughts in the Sierra Nevada were synchronous with charcoal peaks in Lac Francis, Quebec, over the past 6750 years. This synchronicity in climate and fire events suggests the possibility that abrupt, large-scale northward and southward shifts in the locations of the northern Polar Front and subtropical high-pressure zone accompanied the onset of ACCEs in the past.

Citation: Wathen, S. F. (2011), Evidence for climate teleconnections between Greenland and the Sierra Nevada of California during the Holocene, including the 8200 and 5200 climate events, in Abrupt Climate Change: Mechanisms, Patterns, and Impacts, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 193, edited by H. Rashid, L. Polyak and E. Mosley-Thompson, pp. 195–213, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2010GM001022.


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