Articles | Volume 11, issue 9
Research article
17 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 17 Sep 2015

A millennial summer temperature reconstruction for northeastern Canada using oxygen isotopes in subfossil trees

M. Naulier, M. M. Savard, C. Bégin, F. Gennaretti, D. Arseneault, J. Marion, A. Nicault, and Y. Bégin

Abstract. Climatic reconstructions for northeastern Canada are scarce such that this area is under-represented in global temperature reconstructions. To fill this lack of knowledge and identify the most important processes influencing climate variability, this study presents the first summer temperature reconstruction for eastern Canada based on a millennial oxygen isotopic series (δ18O) from tree rings. For this purpose, we selected 230 well-preserved subfossil stems from the bottom of a boreal lake and five living trees on the lakeshore. The sampling method permitted an annually resolved δ18O series with a replication of five trees per year. The June to August maximal temperature of the last millennium has been reconstructed using the statistical relation between Climatic Research Unit (CRU TS3.1) and δ18O data. The resulting millennial series is marked by the well-defined Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; AD 1000–1250), the Little Ice Age (AD 1450–1880) and the modern period (AD 1950–2010), and an overall average cooling trend of −0.6 °C millennium−1. These climatic periods and climatic low-frequency trends are in agreement with the only reconstruction available for northeastern Canada and others from nearby regions (Arctic, Baffin Bay) as well as some remote regions like the Canadian Rockies or Fennoscandia. Our temperature reconstruction indicates that the Medieval Climate Anomaly was characterized by a temperature range similar to the one of the modern period in the study region. However, the temperature increase during the last 3 decades is one of the fastest warming observed over the last millennium (+1.9 °C between 1970–2000). An additional key finding of this research is that the coldest episodes mainly coincide with low solar activities and the extremely cold period of the early 19th century has occurred when a solar minimum was in phase with successive intense volcanic eruptions. Our study provides a new perspective unraveling key mechanisms that controlled the past climate shifts in northeastern Canada.

Short summary
This paper presents a millennial δ18O series and the reconstruction of the maximal temperature. The maximal replication and annual resolution have been obtained by using cohort sampling method. Three contrasted climatic periods have been identified: the medieval warm period (~997-1250; the warmest), the little ice age (~1450-1880) and the modern period (1970-2000) that is one of the fastest warming over the last millennium.