Six millennia of summer temperature variation based on midge analysis of lake sediments from Alaska

Benjamin F. Clegg, Gina H. Clarke, Melissa L. Chipman, Michael Chou, Ian R. Walker, Willy Tinner, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Despite their importance for evaluating anthropogenic climatic change, quantitative temperature reconstructions of the Holocene remain scarce from northern high-latitude regions. We conducted high-resolution midge analysis on the sediments of the past 6000 years from a lake in south-central Alaska. Results were used to estimate mean July air temperature (TJuly) variations on the basis of a midge temperature transfer function. The TJuly estimates from the near-surface samples are broadly consistent with instrumental and treering-based temperature data. Together with previous studies, these results suggest that midge assemblages are more sensitive to small shifts in summer temperature (∼0.5 °C) than indicated by the typical error range of midge temperature transfer functions (∼1.5 °C). A piecewise linear regression analysis identifies a significant change point at ca 4000 years before present (cal BP) in our TJuly record, with a decreasing trend after this point. Episodic TJuly peaks (∼14.5 °C) between 5500 and 4200 cal BP and the subsequent climatic cooling may have resulted from decreasing summer insolation associated with the precessional cycle. Centennial-scale climatic cooling of up to 1 °C occurred around 4000, 3300, 1800-1300, 600, and 250 cal BP. These cooling events were more pronounced and lasted longer during the last two millennia than between 2000 and 4000 cal BP. Some of these events have counterparts in climatic records from elsewhere in Alaska and other regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including several roughly synchronous with known grand minima in solar irradiance. Over the past 2000 years, our TJuly record displays patterns similar to those inferred from a wide variety of temperature proxy indicators at other sites in Alaska, including fluctuations coeval with the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Climate Anomaly, and the First Millennial Cooling (centered around 1400 cal BP). To our knowledge, this study offers the first high-resolution, quantitative record of summer temperature variation that spans longer than the past 2000 years from the high-latitude regions around the North Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3308-3316
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Six millennia of summer temperature variation based on midge analysis of lake sediments from Alaska'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this