Time-series O isotope profiles for three U–Th dated stalagmites have revealed that for much of the Holocene, a site on the Atlantic seaboard (SW Ireland) exhibits first-order δ 18 O trends that are almost exactly out of phase with coupled δ 18 O curves from two southern European sites (SE France and NW Italy). In the Irish stalagmite (CC3 from Crag Cave, SW Ireland), low δ 18 O at 10,000 cal yr BP reflects cool conditions. By the early to mid-Holocene (9000–6000 cal yr BP) δ 18 O had increased, reflecting the onset of warmer conditions on the Atlantic seaboard. This shift to higher δ 18 O was accompanied by a marked increase in the stalagmite extension rate, reinforcing our interpretation that this was a period of relative warmth. Except for an episode of increased extension rate about 5500 yr ago, δ 18 O in the Crag stalagmite exhibits a gradual decrease, accompanied by declining extension rates between 7800 and 3500 cal yr BP, interpreted as a cooling trend. There is evidence for increases in both δ 18 O and stalagmite extension rate in the period from 3500 cal yr BP to the present day suggesting a return to warmer conditions on the Atlantic seaboard. In the stalagmite from NW Italy (ER76, Grotta di Ernesto, Trentino province) the early-Holocene (c. 9200-7800 cal yr BP) is characterised by high δ 18 O, probably indicative of warm and/or dry conditions. Exceptionally low δ 18 O from 7800 to 6900 cal yr BP at this site reflects a well-defined wet phase (Cerin wet phase). In the last three millennia, this stalagmite exhibits a shift to lower δ 18 O, interpreted as some combination of cooler and/or wetter conditions. Unlike the Irish stalagmite, the Italian sample does not show a correlation between δ 18 O and extension rate. Instead, its extension rate correlates roughly with δ 13 C, presumably reflecting a climate-driven vegetation change. In the early Holocene, δ 18 O in the French stalagmite (CL26, Grotte de Clamouse, Herault province, SE France) was low relative to its Holocene average. For much of the period since c. 3500 cal yr BP this stalagmite exhibits higher δ 18 O than in the early Holocene, suggesting warmer conditions. Like the Irish stalagmite, the French sample exhibits a well-defined correlation between δ 18 O and extension rate. Had drip-water availability been the dominant control on δ 18 O at this semi-arid site then higher δ 18 O would have been accompanied by lower, not higher extension rates. This suggests strongly that temperature rather than rainfall amount was the dominant control at this site. While conclusions regarding the patterns of climate variability on a continent scale must remain tentative because of the limited number of stalagmites studied we argue that early Holocene warm conditions on the Atlantic seaboard (Irish site) coincided with relatively cool conditions at the Clamouse site. By c. 3500 yr ago the pattern appears to have been reversed.
Quaternary Science Reviews – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 1999
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