Main University of Pittsburgh Website
Current Research
Sedimentology Lab
Main Department of Geology and Planetary Science Website
North America--Northern Cascades

A Synthesis of the last 2000 Years of Climatic Variability from Arctic Lakes

A Multi Investigator Collaborative Research Project -

Darrell Kaufman (N Arizona U), Glen MacDonald (UCLA), Mark Abbott (Pitt), Raymond Bradley (UMass), Jason Briner (SUNY Buffalo), Donna Francis (UMass), Feng Sheng Hu (U Illinois), Konrad Hughen (Woods Hole), Gifford Miller (U Colorado), Bette Otto-Bliesner (NCAR), Jonathan Overpeck (U Arizona), David Porinchu (Ohio State U), Mike Retelle (Bates College), Al Werner (Mt Holyoke College)

Collaborative Research

    Lesleigh Anderson, USGS, Earth Surface Processes Team, Lakewood (

Student Involvement

    Broxton Bird, Pitt, Ph.D. student starting Aug 2005,

    Lindsey Witthaus, Pitt, Honors College undergraduate thesis Aug 2003 - present

    Lindsay Blotzer, Pitt, undergraduate research project Jan 2005 - present

Images of Alaska

Images of the Brooks Range

Project Summary

This project contributes to understanding the Arctic system by placing 20th century climatic change into a longer-term context of inter-decadal climatic variability spanning the last 2000 yr. The centerpiece of the project is a synthesis of standardized, high-resolution proxy climate records from lakes across the North American Arctic that will advance our understanding of the role of the Arctic within the Earth system.

Without this campaign, our understanding of inter-decadal Arctic climatic variability and its causes will remain scattered and inconclusive. A few additional proxy records will emerge as part of ongoing NSF-ESH research, but the goal of synthesizing a coherent reconstruction over the past 2000 yr will remain largely unfulfilled. Recent results of the PARCS High-Resolution Working Group have demonstrated that proxy climate records from the Arctic preserve a signature of summer temperature that is related to both global mean warming and the Arctic Oscillation. This conclusion was based on a synthesis limited to just the last 600 yr. Available records that extend beyond the Little Ice Age to previous warm intervals are currently too few to capture modes of variability with adequate certainty. The longer-period evolution of these modes is identifiable in decadally resolved proxy records, and should be preserved in longer records of annual to multi-decadal resolution.

With this campaign, our synthesis of annual to inter-decadal climatic variability will extend through the key warm interval of Medieval time. The certainty of the climate reconstruction will be significantly improved by nearly tripling the number of high-resolution, 2000-yr-long, proxy climate records currently available in the Arctic. The project will facilitate integration of results by standardizing the methodologies and by holding workshops for vested collaborators and their students. This tightly focused synthetic study of the Arctic system will be integrated directly into a climate-modeling effort to explore the role of volcanism versus internal adjustments of the climate system and its inherent modes of variability to explain observed patterns in the proxy climate data.

Across the Arctic, lacustrine archives contain the most accessible and widely distributed proxy records for the past 2000 yr. This proposal focuses on 30 of the PI’s highest-priority, most-promising lakes, nearly all of which have been cored previously. The network of sites includes two regional foci (Alaska and the NW North Atlantic) that generally encompass the nodes of the surface temperature expression for the Arctic Oscillation, thereby facilitating the reconstruction of this mode of variability. Half of the lakes contain laminated sediment with potential for annually resolved records; others have high sedimentation rates for sample resolution of 30 yr or better. The proxy data from most lakes can be compared with nearby tree-ring records or instrumental data, or can be applied to transfer functions to yield quantitative estimates of temperature or other climatic variables. Analyses at low-resolution have already begun on most of the cores as part of on-going research. Preliminary data from these lakes indicate their high potential for climate reconstructions. This proposal requests funds to cover the cost of high-resolution analysis of multiple proxies and closely spaced 14C and 210Pb dating.


[About Me...]

[Current Research]


[Sedimentology Lab]





[G&PS Home ]

This site is best viewed at 1024x768 resolution.