One-Half Millennia of Tropical Climate Variability as Recorded in the Stratigraphy of the Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru

  1. David H. Peterson
  1. L. G. Thompson and
  2. E. Mosley-Thompson

Published Online: 23 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM055p0015

Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas

Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas

How to Cite

Thompson, L. G. and Mosley-Thompson, E. (1989) One-Half Millennia of Tropical Climate Variability as Recorded in the Stratigraphy of the Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru, in Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas (ed D. H. Peterson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM055p0015

Author Information

  1. Byrd Polar Research Center, the Ohio State Universitycolumbus, Ohio

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 23 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1989

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900728

Online ISBN: 9781118664285

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Keywords:

  • Climatic changes—Pacific Area.;
  • Paleoclimatology—Pacific Area.;
  • Climatic changes—West (U.S.);
  • Paleoclimatology—West (U.S.);
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Summary

For many geographical regions reliable meteorological observations (i.e., temperature and precipitation) and accurate documentation of environmental conditions (i.e., drought, volcanic activity) prior to 1850 are scarce or absent. However such records, whether based upon observations or proxy information, are essential for the reconstruction of past environmental histories. Ice sheets and ice caps have long been recognized as libraries in which the history of the atmosphere is preserved. However, climatic events which most greatly affect the tropical and subtropical regions may not be manifested strongly in the polar regions and thus may not be well recorded in polar ice sheets. Therefore it is essential to secure proxy climatic records from nontemperate tropical ice caps that record paleoclimatic histories unavailable from other proxy sources. This paper presents a 500-year record of tropical climate variability that was extracted from an ice core at the summit of the Quelccaya ice cap. The last 500 years was selected for discussion because the annual layers in the core were sufficiently large so that 2 to 10 samples could be cut from each annual layer. This allowed the record to be resolved on an annual basis. The final time scale is based upon a combination of annual stratigraphic indicators including visible dust layers, microparticle concentrations, conductivity, and oxygen isotope ratios. The time scale has been independently verified since it spans the historical time period that starts with the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. Possible teleconnections are discussed with emphasis on both the Little Ice Age and several very abrupt climatic events. Emphasis is placed on the discussion of unusual periods of climate (A.D. 1590 to 1630, A.D. 1800 to 1840, and A.D. 1915 to 1940) that appear to have had global significance. Finally, data are given that show the annual values of particle concentrations for total particles (diameters greater than or equal to 0.63 μm), large particles (diameters greater than or equal to 1.59 μm), liquid conductivity, oxygen isotope ratios, and the standard deviation of accumulation from A.D. 1485 to 1984.