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Keywords:

  • Irish bog oak and pine;
  • radiocarbon production rate;
  • North Atlantic thermohaline circulation;
  • millennial-scale climate change;
  • Lough Neagh

Abstract

The temporal and spatial extent of Holocene climate change is an area of considerable uncertainty, with solar forcing recently proposed to be the origin of cycles identified in the North Atlantic region. To address these issues we have developed an annually resolved record of changes in Irish bog tree populations over the last 7468 years which, together with radiocarbon-dated bog and lake-edge populations, extend the dataset back to ∼9000 yr ago. The Irish trees underpin the internationally accepted radiocarbon calibration curve, used to derive a proxy of solar activity, and allow us to test solar forcing of Holocene climate change. Tree populations and age structures provide unambiguous evidence of major shifts in Holocene surface moisture, with a dominant cyclicity of 800 yr, similar to marine cycles in the North Atlantic, indicating significant changes in the latitude and intensity of zonal atmospheric circulation across the region. The cycles, however, are not coherent with changes in solar activity (both being on the same absolute timescale), indicating that Holocene North Atlantic climate variability at the millennial and centennial scale is not driven by a linear response to changes in solar activity. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.