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Correlation of Alaskan varve Thickness with Climatic Parameters, and use in Paleoclimatic Reconstruction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

James A. Perkins
Affiliation:
U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025 USA
John D. Sims
Affiliation:
U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025 USA

Abstract

The thickness of varves in the sediments of Skilak Lake, Alaska, are correlated with the mean annual temperature (r = 0.574), inversely correlated with the mean annual cumulative snowfall (r = −0.794), and not correlated with the mean annual precipitation (r = 0.202) of the southern Alaska climatological division for the years 1907–1934 A.D. Varve thickness in Skilak Lake is sensitive to annual temperature and snowfall because Skilak Glacier, the dominant source of sediment for Skilak Lake, is sensitive to these climatic parameters. Trends of varve thickness are well correlated with trends of mean annual cumulative snowfall ( = −0.902) of the southern Alaska climatological division and with trends of mean annual temperature of the southern ( = 0.831) and northern ( = 0.786) Alaska climatological divisions. Trends of varve thickness also correlate with trends of annual temperature in Seattle and North Head, Washington ( = 0.632 and 0.850, respectively). Comparisons of trends of varve thickness with trends of annual temperature in California, Oregon, and Washington suggest no widespread regional correlation. Trends of annual snowfall in the southern Alaska climatological division and trends of annual temperature in the southern and northern Alaska climatological divisions are reconstructed for the years 1700–1906 A.D. Climatic reconstructions on the basis of varve thickness in Skilak Lake utilize equations derived from the regression of series of smoothed climatological data on series of smoothed varve thickness. Reconstruction of trends of mean annual cunulative snowfall in the southern Alaska climatological division suggests that snowfall during the 1700s and 1800s was much greater than that during the early and mid-1900s. The periods 1770–1790 and 1890–1906 show marked decreases in the mean annual snowfall. Reconstructed trends of the annual temperature of the northern and southern Alaska climatological divisions suggest that annual temperatures during the 1700s and 1800s were lower than those of the early and mid-1900s. Two periods of relatively high annual temperatures coincide with the periods of low annual snowfall thus determined.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
University of Washington

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