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Return to Little Harbor, Santa Catalina Island, California: A Critique of the Marine Paleotemperature Model

  • L. Mark Raab (a1), Katherine Bradford (a2), Judith F. Porcasi (a1) and William J. Howard (a2)

Abstract

Marine paleotemperature is a significant factor in the subsistence productivity of many coastal regions and may be an important factor in the evolution of maritime societies. A California paleotemperature model, spanning 8,000 calendar years, correlates periods of high sea surface temperatures with decreased marine subsistence productivity. A recent case study involving this model identified warming conditions between A.D. 1150 to 1300 as a major cause of subsistence distress for dwellers of the northern Channel Islands. These results are questionable, based on a comparison with data from other sites and periods of high sea temperature. Research at the Little Harbor site, one of the most extensively researched in the Channel Islands, shows that high sea temperature about 5,200 calendar years ago may have introduced warm-water faunas but not starvation conditions. Evidence from other sites occupied during subsequent warming cycles, including the event between A.D. 1150 to 1300, points to similar conclusions. Understanding the effects of long- and short-term ocean temperature cycles, a focus on only a small segment of the Holocene paleotemperature curve, and weak evidence that food abundance was affected by sea temperature are problems that must be overcome before the validity of the paleotemperature model can be accepted.

Resumen

La paleotemperatura marina es un factor significativo en la productividad de subsistencia de muchas regiones costeras y puede ser un factor importante en la evolución de sociedades marίtimas. Un modelo de paleotemperatura en California, que cubre 8.000 años, correlaciona perίodos de alta temperatura de la superficie del mar conmenor productividad de subsistencia marina. Un estudio de caso reciente que incluyó este modelo identificó la condiciones más cálidas entre 1150 y 1300 D.C. comom una causa importante de loa problemas de subsistencia de los habitantes del norte de las Islas del Canal. Estos resultados son cuestionables, pues se basan en una comparición con datos de otros sitios y perίodos de alta temperatura marina. Investigaciones en el sitio Little Harbor, uno de los sitios estudiados más extensivamente en las Islas del Canal, indican que, hace aproximadamente 5.200 años, la alta temperatura del mar pudo haber introducido fauna de agua cálida más no condiciones de hambre. La evidencia de otros sitios ocupados durante loa ciclos cdlidos subsiguientes, incluyendo el evento entre 1150y 1300 D. C, llevan a conclusiones similares. La poca comprensión de los efectos de ciclos de temperatura oceánica a corto y largo plazo, el enfoque en solamente un segmento pequeño de la curva de paleotemperatura, y la débil evidencia de que la temperatura del mar afectoó la abundancia de alimento, son problemas que deben solucionarse antes de que la validez del modelo de paleotemperatura sea aceptada.

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References

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