Holocene climatic change in the Alaskan Arctic as inferred from oxygen-isotope and lake-sediment analyses at Wahoo Lake

Richard S. Vachula, Melissa L. Chipman, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Despite recent progress in understanding high-latitude climate variability, paleoclimate records are scarce from the Alaskan Arctic. We conducted isotopic and sediment analyses at Wahoo Lake to infer Holocene climate variability in northeastern Alaska. Water δ18O and δD values from the lake and its inlet/outlet streams suggest that winter precipitation dominates modern water inputs and that evaporation has limited influence on the lake’s hydrological budget. The isotopic composition of Pisidium exhibits marked variations during the past 11,500 years, with δ18O ranging between −18.7‰ and −16.2‰ and δ13C between −7.1‰ and −2.3‰ (Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite (VPDB)). Elevated δ18O and sediment composition from 11.5 to 8.9 kcal. BP suggest evaporative 18O enrichment and arid conditions. Rising lake levels are evidenced by the disappearance of Pisidium and a transition to low-carbonate gyttja ca. 6.3 kcal. BP and by the onset of sediment deposition on an adjacent shelf by 5.3 kcal. BP. These changes coincided with enhanced effective moisture in interior and southern Alaska as inferred from lake-level records and may be related to broad-scale atmospheric circulation changes. In the shelf sediments, carbonate abundance increases markedly at 3.5 kcal. BP, and δ18O increases from −18.0‰ to −16.5‰ at 2.1 kcal. BP, possibly resulting from increased temperature and/or summer precipitation. After 2.1 kcal. BP, δ18O fluctuates with an overall decreasing trend to −17.2‰ at 0.9 kcal. BP. Late-Holocene variations in our δ18O record display coherent patterns with regional glacier fluctuations at centennial to millennial scales, suggesting that δ18O minima were related to a combination of low temperatures and enhanced winter snowfall. Holocene variations in organic matter abundance at Wahoo Lake also show broad similarities to total solar irradiance, implying that suborbital solar variability played a role in modulating regional climate and aquatic productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1644
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Arctic
  • Holocene
  • Pisidium
  • carbonate isotopes
  • solar irradiance
  • δC
  • δO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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