Holocene climate change in Arctic Canada and Greenland

Jason P. Briner, Nicholas P. McKay, Yarrow Axford, Ole Bennike, Raymond S. Bradley, Anne de Vernal, David Fisher, Pierre Francus, Bianca Fréchette, Konrad Gajewski, Anne Jennings, Darrell S. Kaufman, Gifford Miller, Cody Rouston, Bernd Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


This synthesis paper summarizes published proxy climate evidence showing the spatial and temporal pattern of climate change through the Holocene in Arctic Canada and Greenland. Our synthesis includes 47 records from a recently published database of highly resolved Holocene paleoclimate time series from the Arctic (Sundqvist et al., 2014). We analyze the temperature histories represented by the database and compare them with paleoclimate and environmental information from 54 additional published records, mostly from datasets that did not fit the selection criteria for the Arctic Holocene database. Combined, we review evidence from a variety of proxy archives including glaciers (ice cores and glacial geomorphology), lake sediments, peat sequences, and coastal and deep-marine sediments. The temperature-sensitive records indicate more consistent and earlier Holocene warmth in the north and east, and a more diffuse and later Holocene thermal maximum in the south and west. Principal components analysis reveals two dominant Holocene trends, one with early Holocene warmth followed by cooling in the middle Holocene, the other with a broader period of warmth in the middle Holocene followed by cooling in the late Holocene. The temperature decrease from the warmest to the coolest portions of the Holocene is 3.0 ± 1.0 °C on average (n = 11 sites). The Greenland Ice Sheet retracted to its minimum extent between 5 and 3 ka, consistent with many sites from around Greenland depicting a switch from warm to cool conditions around that time. The spatial pattern of temperature change through the Holocene was likely driven by the decrease in northern latitude summer insolation through the Holocene, the varied influence of waning ice sheets in the early Holocene, and the variable influx of Atlantic Water into the study region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-364
Number of pages25
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Arctic Canada
  • Greenland
  • Holocene
  • Holocene thermal maximum
  • Neoglacial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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