Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Research article
27 Sep 2011
Research article |  | 27 Sep 2011

Temperature variability at Dürres Maar, Germany during the Migration Period and at High Medieval Times, inferred from stable carbon isotopes of Sphagnum cellulose

R. Moschen, N. Kühl, S. Peters, H. Vos, and A. Lücke

Abstract. This paper presents a high resolution reconstruction of local growing season temperature (GST) anomalies at Dürres Maar, Germany, spanning the last two millennia. The GST anomalies were derived from a stable carbon isotope time series of cellulose chemically extracted from Sphagnum leaves (δ13Ccellulose) separated from a kettle-hole peat deposit of several metres thickness. The temperature reconstruction is based on the Sphagnum δ13Ccellulose/temperature dependency observed in calibration studies. Reconstructed GST anomalies show considerable centennial and decadal scale variability. A cold and presumably wet phase with below-average temperature is reconstructed between the 4th and 7th century AD which is in accordance with the so called European Migration Period, marking the transition from the Late Roman Period to the Early Middle Ages. At High Medieval Times, the amplitude in the reconstructed temperature variability is most likely overestimated; nevertheless, above-average temperatures are obvious during this time span, which are followed by a temperature decrease. On the contrary, a pronounced Late Roman Climate Optimum, often described as similarly warm or even warmer as medieval times, could not be detected. The temperature signal of the Little Ice Age (LIA) is not preserved in Dürres Maar due to considerable peat cutting that takes place in the first half of the 19th century. The local GST anomalies show a remarkable agreement to northern hemispheric temperature reconstructions based on tree-ring datasets and are also in accordance with climate reconstructions on the basis of lake sediments, glacier advances and retreats, and historical datasets. Most notably, e.g., during the Early Middle Ages and at High Medieval Times, temperatures were neither low nor high in general. Rather high frequency temperature variability with multiple narrow intervals of below- and above-average temperatures at maximum lasting a few decades are reconstructed. Especially the agreements between our estimated GST anomalies and temperature reconstructions derived from tree-ring chronologies indicate the great potential of Sphagnum δ13Ccellulose time series from peat deposits for palaeoclimate research. This is particularly the case, given that a quantitative δ13Ccellulose/temperature relationship has been found for several Sphagnum species. Although the time resolution of Sphagnum δ13Ccellulose datasets certainly wouldn't reach the annual resolution of tree-ring data, reconstructions of past temperature variability on the basis of this proxy hold one particular advantage: often due to relatively high peat accumulation rates, especially in kettle-hole bogs accumulated on temperate latitudes over periods of up to several millennia, they allow extending temperature reconstructions based on tree-ring series into the past to enhance our knowledge of natural climate variability during the Holocene.