Holocene climate less stable than previously thought



Until recently, Holocene climate was thought to be extremely stable with none of the abrupt variations that characterize the cold climates of glacial times [Dansgaard et al., 1993]. New terrestrial, marine, and ice core data, however, document abrupt changes during the warm interglacial climate of the last 12,000 years. These newly developed Holocene paleoclimate records indicate that the Holocene was punctuated by a series of millennial-scale (1000–2000 year) cooling events, the most recent of which was the Little Ice Age (LIA) between approximately 1500 and 1800 A.D.

Historical evidence indicates that the estimated ˜1°–2°C LIA ooling was ufficient to choke European ports with sea ice, freeze European rivers (as graphically recorded in the 1565 painting “Winter Landscape” by Pieter Bruegel), force abandonment of Viking colonies in Greenland, and cause glaciers to overrun alpine villages [Bradley and Jones, 1995]. Although these Holocene cooling events were not as large as the well-known glacial Heinrich events and Dansgaard-Oeschger climate instabilities [Bond et al., 1996; Dansgaard et al., 1993], they nonetheless document dramatic climate swings during the “climatically stable” Holocene.