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Barber, V.A., 2002

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Bibliographic Reference

Barber, V.A., 2002, Millennial to annual scale paleoclimatic change in central Alaska during the Late Quaternary interpreted from lake sediments and tree rings: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 131 p., illust., maps.

Abstract

The theme of this dissertation is the importance of effective moisture (precipitation minus evaporation) in subarctic ecosystems. Interior Alaska has a relatively dry climate with annual precipitation ranging from 25-45 cm. Records from interior Alaska lake sediment cores show low lake levels following the Last Glacial Maximum, with significant increases at 12,000 and 9,000 14 C years BP. Using lake-level reconstructions and models based on modern hydrologic and meteorologic data, we infer precipitation of 35-75% less than modern at 12,000 yr. BP, 25-45% less than modern at 9,000 yr. BP, and 10-20% less than modern at 6,000 yr. BP. Trees were scarce on the interior Alaskan landscape during the late Pleistocene with birch species appearing about 12,000 BP and spruce species approximately 3500 years later. The correspondence between lake-level and vegetation changes suggests that moisture may have been one of the limiting factors in the establishment of these tree species. Alaska climate records show a climatic regime shift in the mid-1970s. Less effective moisture is available over the past 30 years because summer temperatures in interior Alaska have been increasing without a concurrent increase in precipitation. Radial growth of white spruce at 20 low elevation stands in interior Alaska declined corresponding with this climatic change. The observation that moisture limits spruce growth in Alaska today is consistent with our inference of moisture limitation in the early Holocene. A 200-year reconstruction was developed based on two tree ring proxies, 13 C discrimination and maximum latewood density, which together show excellent agreement with the recorded Fairbanks average May through August temperatures. The first half of the 20th century is characterized by the coolest summers of the 200 year period of reconstruction, while the latter part of the 20th century, particularly from 1974 onward, is characterized by some of the warmest summers of the 200 year period. Mid-19 th summer temperatures reconstruct to be as warm as the latter part of the 20th century, which is inconsistent with reconstructions of other regions. It seems likely, based on current information, that these inconsistencies may be real and may reflect regional synoptic conditions unique to interior Alaska. Distinctive decadal scale regimes were identified throughout the record.

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