Rates of natural climate change : a study of speleothems

Swabey, Stephen E. J. (1996). Rates of natural climate change : a study of speleothems. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d519


Speleothems (cave calcite) provide many different proxy indicators for palaeoclimatic changes during the Quaternary era. Generally, the occurrence of growing speleothems is a strong proxy for global palaeoclimate, both geographically and through time. A database of speleothem U-Th ages shows some evidence for an early transition from the penultimate glacial to the last interglacial at -140 Ka BP. The database suggests an age of 63 Ka BP for the maximum cold period within isotope stage 4. Isotope stage 3 contains three periods of increased number of growing speleothems, at 40,50 and 56 Ka BP mainly in low latitude caves. The start of growth, growth rate, oxygen isotopes, carbon isotopes and luminescence intensity in two speleothems from southern Ireland provide high-resolution records of rapid palaeoclimate changes in that region during the Late Glacial. Several of these palaeoclimate proxies appear to be linked. The Younger Dryas (YO) cold event is dated at between 12.5 and 11.4 Ka BP in both speleothem records. The dominant agent of palaeoclimatic variation during the YD is probably changes in North Atlantic ocean circulation. A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is developed as a means of rapidly converting between 14C and calendar years and vice versa.

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