Articles | Volume 11, issue 6
Research article
01 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 01 Jun 2015

A 500-year seasonally resolved δ18O and δ13C, layer thickness and calcite aspect record from a speleothem deposited in the Han-sur-Lesse cave, Belgium

M. Van Rampelbergh, S. Verheyden, M. Allan, Y. Quinif, H. Cheng, L. R. Edwards, E. Keppens, and P. Claeys

Abstract. Speleothem δ18O and δ13C signals enable climate reconstructions at high resolution. However, scarce decadal and seasonally resolved speleothem records are often difficult to interpret in terms of climate due to the multitude of factors that affect the proxy signals. In this paper, a fast-growing (up to 2 mm yr−1) seasonally laminated speleothem from the Han-sur-Lesse cave (Belgium) is analyzed for its δ18O and δ13C values, layer thickness and changes in calcite aspect. The studied record covers the period between AD 2001 and 1479 as indicated by layer counting and confirmed by 20 U / Th ages. The Proserpine proxies are seasonally biased and document drier (and colder) winters on multidecadal scales. Higher δ13C signals reflect increased prior calcite precipitation (PCP) and lower soil activity during drier (and colder) winters. Thinner layers and darker calcite relate to slower growth and exist during drier (and colder) winter periods. Exceptionally dry (and cold) winter periods occur from 1565 to 1610, at 1730, from 1770 to 1800, from 1810 to 1860, and from 1880 to 1895 and correspond to exceptionally cold periods in historical and instrumental records as well as European winter temperature reconstructions. More relative climate variations, during which the four measured proxies vary independently and display lower amplitude variations, occur between 1479 and 1565, between 1610 and 1730, and between 1730 and 1770. The winters during the first and last periods are interpreted as relatively wetter (and warmer) and correspond to warmer periods in historical data and in winter temperature reconstructions in Europe. The winters in the period between 1610 and 1730 are interpreted as relatively drier (and cooler) and correspond to generally colder conditions in Europe. Interpretation of the seasonal variations in δ18O and δ13C signals differs from that on a decadal and multidecadal scale. Seasonal δ18O variations reflect cave air temperature variations and suggest a 2.5 °C seasonality in cave air temperature during the two relatively wetter (and warmer) winter periods (1479–1565 and 1730–1770), which corresponds to the cave air temperature seasonality observed today. Between 1610 and 1730, the δ18O values suggest a 1.5 °C seasonality in cave air temperature, indicating colder summer temperatures during this drier (and cooler) interval. The δ13C seasonality is driven by PCP and suggests generally lower PCP seasonal effects between 1479 and 1810 compared to today. A short interval of increased PCP seasonality occurs between 1600 and 1660, and reflects increased PCP in summer due to decreased winter recharge.