A high-resolution hydroclimate record of the last three millennia from a cored stalagmite at Desoto Caverns (Alabama, USA)

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University of Alabama Libraries

Late Holocene climate changes in the Southeast USA are poorly documented due to the paucity of high-resolution paleo-records. This study provides high-resolution records of rapid hydroclimate changes in the Southeast over the last three millennia. The records are based on stable isotope rainfall proxies whose time series are constrained by precise U/Th dates from a stalagmite sampled at DeSoto Caverns. The average growth rate of the stalagmite was 149 µm/yr prior to 1400 years and it has been growing with an average growth rate of 42 µm/yr in the last 1400 years. During the past three thousand years stable isotope time series document six wet episodes (at ~ 2950, 2450, 1675, 1200, 700 and 70 years ago) alternating with six drier periods (at ~ 3100, 2800, 1900, 1500, 800 and 300 years ago). The biannually resolved 18O record agrees well with the contemporaneous SST record from the Sargasso Sea cores suggesting that changes in moisture availability in the Southeast are likely linked to subtropical North Atlantic SST variability. Power spectra analysis of the stalagmite-based oxygen isotope record reveals statistically significant periodicities at 24±1 and 36±1 year that are consistent with those observed in the contemporaneous atmospheric 14C production record. The 24 years periodicity is also consistent with the 24-year NAO Index periodicity. On the basis of our analysis we propose that the hydroclimate in the Southeast USA over the last three millennia was intimately linked to NAO variability powered by solar activity fluctuations.

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Paleoclimate science, Atmospheric sciences