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High-resolution isotope records of early Holocene rapid climate change from two coeval stalagmites of Katerloch Cave, Austria

Satellite image of the Alps, Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

High-resolution isotope records of early Holocene rapid climate change from two coeval stalagmites of Katerloch Cave, Austria

Quaternary Science Reviews
Vol. 28, pp. 2527-2538, November 2009

Ronny Boch1, Christoph Spötl1, Jan Kramers2
1 Institut für Geologie und Paläontologie, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2 Institut für Geologie, Universität Bern, Baltzerstrasse 1-3, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
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.

The 8.2 kyr climate anomaly lasted about one century, from 8196 to 8100 yr, with a maximum amplitude of 1.1‰ at 8175 yr. The event is characterized by a rapid onset and a more gradual demise and U-Th data as well as annual lamina counting support a rapid climate change towards cooler conditions within 10-20 yr. There is no strong evidence that the 8.2 kyr anomaly was superimposed on a pronounced longer-term cooling episode, nor do the new data support two separate cooling events within the 8.2 kyr event as reported by other studies. Our record also shows a distinct climate anomaly around 9.1 kyr, which lasted 70-110 yr and showed a maximum amplitude of 1.0‰, i.e. it had a similar duration and amplitude as the (central) 8.2 kyr event. Compared to the 8.2 kyr event, the 9.1 kyr anomaly shows a more symmetrical structure, but onset and demise still occurred within a few decades only. The different progression of the 8.2 (asymmetrical) and 9.1 kyr anomaly (symmetrical) suggests a fundamental difference in the trigger and/or the response of the climate system. Moreover, both stalagmites show evidence of a climate anomaly around 10.0 kyr, which was of comparable magnitude to the two subsequent events.

Using a well constrained modern calibration between air temperature and δ18O of precipitation for the study area and cave monitoring data (confirming speleothem deposition in Katerloch reflecting cave air temperature), a maximum cooling by ca 3°C can be inferred at 8.2 and 9.1 kyr, which is similar to other estimates, e.g., from Lake Ammersee north of the Alps. The O isotopic composition of meteoric precipitation, however, is a complex tracer of the hydrological cycle and these temperature estimates do not take into account additional effects such as changes in the source area or synoptic shifts. Apart from that, the relative thickness of the seasonally controlled lamina types in the Katerloch stalagmites remains rather constant across the intervals comprising the isotopic anomalies, i.e. the stalagmite petrography argues against major shifts in seasonality during the early Holocene climate excursions.
Download data from the WDC Paleo archive:
Katerloch Cave, Austria, Early Holocene Speleothem Stable Isotope Data, Text or Excel format.

To read or view the full study, please visit the Science Direct website.
It was published in Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 28, pp. 2527-2538, November 2009

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