Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-95
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-95

  02 Aug 2021

02 Aug 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Glaciers and ice caps through the Holocene: A pan–Arctic synthesis of lake–based reconstructions

Laura J. Larocca and Yarrow Axford Laura J. Larocca and Yarrow Axford
  • Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 USA

Abstract. The recent retreat of nearly all glaciers and ice caps (GICs) located in Arctic regions is one of the most clear and visible signs of ongoing climate change. This paper synthesizes published records of Holocene GIC fluctuations from lake archives, placing their recent retreat into a longer–term context. Our compilation includes sixty–six lake–based GIC records (plus one non–lake–based record from the Russian Arctic) from seven Arctic regions: Alaska; the archipelagos of the eastern Canadian Arctic; GICs peripheral to the Greenland Ice Sheet; Iceland; the Scandinavian peninsula; Svalbard; and the Russian high Arctic. For each region, and for the full Arctic, we summarize evidence for when GICs were smaller than today or absent altogether, indicating warmer than present summers, and evidence for when GICs regrew in lake catchments, indicating summer cooling. Consistent with orbitally driven high boreal summer insolation in the early Holocene, the pan–Arctic compilation suggests that the majority (50 % or more) of studied GICs were smaller than present or absent by ~10 ka. The regional compilations suggest even earlier GIC loss, and thus warmth, in the Russian Arctic and in Svalbard. We find the highest percentage (>90 %) of Arctic GICs smaller than present or absent in the middle Holocene ~7–6 ka, probably reflecting more spatially ubiquitous and consistent summer warmth during this period than in the early Holocene. Following this interval of widespread warmth, our compilation shows that GICs across the Arctic began to regrow, and summers began to cool by ~6 ka. Together, the pan–Arctic records also suggest two periods of enhanced GIC growth in the mid–to–late Holocene, from ~4.5–3 ka and after ~2 ka. The regional records show substantial variability in the timing of GIC regrowth within and between regions, suggesting that the Arctic did not cool synchronously despite the smooth and hemispherically symmetric decline in Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. In agreement with other studies, this implies a combined response to glacier–specific characteristics such as topography, and to other climatic forcings and feedback mechanisms, perhaps driving periods of increased regional cooling. Today, the direction of orbital forcing continues to favor GIC expansion, however, the rapid retreat of nearly all Arctic GICs underscores the current dominance of anthropogenic forcing on GIC mass balance. Our review finds that in the first half of the Holocene, most of the Arctic’s small GICs became significantly reduced or melted away completely in response to summer temperatures that, on average, were only moderately warmer than today. In comparison, future projections of temperature change in the Arctic far exceed estimated early Holocene values in most locations, portending the eventual loss of most of the Arctic’s small GICs.

Laura J. Larocca and Yarrow Axford

Status: open (until 27 Sep 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-95', Anonymous Referee #1, 18 Sep 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on cp-2021-95', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Sep 2021 reply

Laura J. Larocca and Yarrow Axford

Laura J. Larocca and Yarrow Axford

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Short summary
This paper synthesizes sixty–six records of glacier variations over the Holocene from lake archives across seven Arctic regions. We find that summers only moderately warmer than today drove major environmental change across the Arctic, including the widespread loss of glaciers in the early Holocene. In comparison, future projections of Arctic temperature change far exceed estimated early Holocene values in most locations, portending the eventual loss of most of the Arctic’s small glaciers.