Millennial-scale Storminess Variability in the Northeastern United States during the Holocene Epoch

Sediment core from Chapel Pond, St. Huberts, New York
~20-cm section of sediment core from Chapel Pond, showing 10-cm layer of sand and woody forest debris (twigs, bark, leaves, etc) Click image for high resolution version. Photo by Anders Noren.
Millennial-scale Storminess Variability in the Northeastern United States during the Holocene Epoch
Nature, 419, 821 - 824 (2002); doi:10.1038/nature01132

Anders J. Noren1, Paul R. Bierman1, Eric J. Steig2, Andrea Lini 1, and John Southon3.
1 Department of Geology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA
2 Quaternary Research Center and Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
3 Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94551, USA. Present address: Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA

For the purpose of detecting the effects of human activities on climate change, it is important to document natural change in past climate. In this context, it has proved particularly difficult to study the variability in the occurrence of extreme climate events, such as storms with exceptional rainfall. Previous investigations have established storm chronologies using sediment cores from single lakes, but such studies can be susceptible to local environmental bias. Here we date terrigenous inwash layers in cores from 13 lakes, which show that the frequency of storm-related floods in the northeastern United States has varied in regular cycles during the past 13,000 years (13 kyr), with a characteristic period of about 3 kyr. Our data show four peaks in storminess during the past 14 kyr, approximately 2.6, 5.8, 9.1 and 11.9 kyr ago. This pattern is consistent with long-term changes in the average sign of the Arctic Oscillation, suggesting that modulation of this dominant atmospheric mode may account for a significant fraction of Holocene climate variability in North America and Europe.

Coring Echo Lake, Plymouth, Vermont Extracting a sediment core from Echo Lake, Plymouth, Vermont. From left to right: Josh Galster, Karen Jennnings, Drew Lamneck, Rachael Howse, and Anders Noren. Click image for high resolution version. Photo by Paul Bierman. Flood of 1927 sweeps through Richford, Vermont. Flood of 1927 sweeps through Richford, Vermont. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.

DATA:
Download the lake sediment data from the WDC Paleo Archive:
Microsoft Excel or Text format.

To read or view the full study, please visit the Nature website.
It was published in Nature, 419: 6909, pp. 821-824, 24 October 2002

Press coverage: New York Times science feature about this research, published October 25, 2002.

This project was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (P.R.B.)


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15 November 2002