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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Integrating satellite observations and modern climate measurements with the recent sedimentary record: An example from Southeast Alaska

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Abstract

[1] Assessments of climate change over time scales that exceed the last 100 years require robust integration of high-quality instrument records with high-resolution paleoclimate proxy data. In this study, we show that the recent biogenic sediments accumulating in two temperate ice-free fjords in Southeast Alaska preserve evidence of North Pacific Ocean climate variability as recorded by both instrument networks and satellite observations. Multicore samples EW0408-32MC and EW0408-43MC were investigated with 137Cs and excess 210Pb geochronometry, three-dimensional computed tomography, high-resolution scanning XRF geochemistry, and organic stable isotope analyses. EW0408-32MC (57.162°N, 135.357°W, 146 m depth) is a moderately bioturbated continuous record that spans AD ∼1930–2004. EW0408-43MC (56.965°N, 135.268°W, 91 m depth) is composed of laminated diatom oozes, a turbidite, and a hypopycnal plume (river flood) deposit. A discontinuous event-based varve chronology indicates 43MC spans AD ∼1940–1981. Decadal-scale fluctuations in sedimentary Br/Cl ratios accurately reflect changes in marine organic matter accumulation that display the same temporal pattern as that of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. An estimated Sitka summer productivity parameter calibrated using SeaWiFS satellite observations support these relationships. The correlation of North Pacific climate regime states, primary productivity, and sediment geochemistry indicate the accumulation of biogenic sediment in Southeast Alaska temperate fjords can be used as a sensitive recorder of past productivity variability, and by inference, past climate conditions in the high-latitude Gulf of Alaska.

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