Reconstructing high-resolution climate using CT scanning of unsectioned stalagmites: A case study identifying the mid-Holocene onset of the Mediterranean climate in southern Iberia

Izabela W. Walczak, James U.L. Baldini, Lisa M. Baldini, Frank McDermott, Stuart Marsden, Christopher D. Standish, David A. Richards, Bartolomé Andreo, Jonathan Slater

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The forcing mechanisms responsible for the mid-Holocene onset of the Mediterranean-type climate in south-western Europe are currently unclear, but understanding these is critical for accurate climate projections under future greenhouse gas warming. Additionally, regional studies that present conflicting patterns for the onset and advancement of Mediterranean climatic conditions complicate definitively ascribing causality. Here, we use a new high resolution stalagmite density record obtained non-destructively using Computed Tomography (CT scanning) to reconstruct southern Iberian climate between 9.3 and 2.9 ka BP. We suggest that stalagmite density can be used as a water-excess proxy, with lower densities associated with more variable drip rates, possibly reflecting increased seasonality consistent with expectations from previous studies of speleothem textures and crystal fabrics. Our results reveal an early Holocene humid interval and mid-Holocene year-round aridity that preceded the onset of Mediterranean climate at 5.3 ka BP in southern Iberia. Using this new dataset combined with previously published results, we link the gradual advancement of the Mediterranean climate to the southward migration of the North Atlantic Subtropical High induced by an orbitally driven decrease in Northern Hemisphere insolation. Future anthropogenic warming could result in a reversal of this trend, a northward migration of the North Atlantic Subtropical High, and a return to year-round aridity in south-western Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-128
    Number of pages11
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Volume127
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

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