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Millennial-scale storminess variability in the northeastern United States during the Holocene epoch

Abstract

For the purpose of detecting the effects of human activities on climate change, it is important to document natural change in past climate1. In this context, it has proved particularly difficult to study the variability in the occurrence of extreme climate events, such as storms with exceptional rainfall1. Previous investigations have established storm chronologies using sediment cores from single lakes2,3,4,5,6,7,8, but such studies can be susceptible to local environmental bias. Here we date terrigenous inwash layers in cores from 13 lakes, which show that the frequency of storm-related floods in the northeastern United States has varied in regular cycles during the past 13,000 years (13 kyr), with a characteristic period of about 3 kyr. Our data show four peaks in storminess during the past 14 kyr, approximately 2.6, 5.8, 9.1 and 11.9 kyr ago. This pattern is consistent with long-term changes in the average sign of the Arctic Oscillation9, suggesting that modulation of this dominant atmospheric mode may account for a significant fraction of Holocene climate variability in North America and Europe.

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Figure 1: Inferred storminess in the northeastern United States and relevant climate records.
Figure 2: Results of high-resolution, whole-core grain size (GS) analysis and composite sediment record (COMP) for two Lake Morey cores.
Figure 3: Multitaper spectral analysis (three tapers) of storminess and GISP2 non-sea-salt (n.s.s) K time series, interpolated with a 100-yr interval and with linear trend removed29.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Galster for field and laboratory assistance, K. Jennings for field assistance, A. Bosley and A. Conlan for grain size analysis, S. Brown for laboratory training, P.T. Davis for coring device design and training, and J. M. Wallace and H. Fischer for comments and discussion. This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation (P.R.B).

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Correspondence to Anders J. Noren.

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Noren, A., Bierman, P., Steig, E. et al. Millennial-scale storminess variability in the northeastern United States during the Holocene epoch. Nature 419, 821–824 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01132

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