Multi-proxy evidence for millennial-scale changes in North Pacific Holocene hydroclimate from the Kenai Peninsula lowlands, south-central Alaska

Ellie Broadman, Darrell S. Kaufman, Andrew C.G. Henderson, Edward E. Berg, R. Scott Anderson, Melanie J. Leng, Sean A. Stahnke, Samuel E. Muñoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The Holocene hydroclimate of south-central Alaska has been studied extensively, but conflicting interpretations between oxygen isotope paleoclimate datasets are seemingly as common as converging reconstructions, in part due to the challenges of interpreting oxygen isotope ratios in terms of climate. Here, we present a new Holocene record of biogenic silica abundance (BSi), diatom flora, and diatom oxygen isotopes (δ18OBSi) analyzed in sediments from Sunken Island Lake (SIL) in the Kenai Peninsula lowlands, which we interpret in the context of previously published paleoclimate records, and use to understand regional changes in hydroclimate. Changes in lake level documented by aerial photography coupled with a survey of regional lake water isotopes indicate SIL is sensitive to changes in the balance of precipitation and evaporation (P-E). However, an analysis of SIL δ18OBSi over the instrumental period indicates that δ18OBSi is sensitive to both P-E and the isotope composition of precipitation (δ18Oprecip), which is driven by changes in the Aleutian Low atmospheric pressure cell (AL). We attribute a ∼2‰ increase in δ18OBSi from 5.5 to 4.5 ka cal BP to a stronger AL, which resulted in the delivery of isotopically heavier precipitation to the Kenai lowlands, and wetter conditions during the late Holocene. These interpretations are supported by late Holocene increases in the relative abundance of planktonic diatoms and BSi-inferred storminess, and by evidence for higher-than-present lake levels on the paleo-shorelines above SIL at ∼1.5–0.5 ka cal BP. Our dataset demonstrates that this region was characterized by relatively low lake levels and dry climate in the early Holocene, a strengthening of the AL in the late Holocene, and wetter climate during the late Holocene until recent decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106420
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Aleutian Low
  • Biogenic silica
  • Diatom oxygen isotopes
  • Holocene
  • Hydroclimate
  • Kenai lowlands
  • South-central Alaska

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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