High-Resolution Climatic Evolution of Coastal Northern California During the Past 16,000 Years

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Holocene and latest Pleistocene oceanographic conditions and the coastal climate of northern California have varied greatly, based upon high-resolution studies (ca. every 100 years) of diatoms, alkenones, pollen, CaCO3%, and total organic carbon at Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1019 (41.682°N, 124.930°W, 980 m water depth). Marine climate proxies (alkenone sea surface temperatures [SSTs] and CaCO3%) behaved remarkably like the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP)-2 oxygen isotope record during the Bølling-Allerod, Younger Dryas (YD), and early part of the Holocene. During the YD, alkenone SSTs decreased by >3°C below mean Bølling-Allerod and Holocene SSTs. The early Holocene (ca. 11.6 to 8.2 ka) was a time of generally warm conditions and moderate CaCO3 content (generally >4%). The middle part of the Holocene (ca. 8.2 to 3.2 ka) was marked by alkenone SSTs that were consistently 1–2°C cooler than either the earlier or later parts of the Holocene, by greatly reduced numbers of the gyre-diatom Pseudoeunotia doliolus (<10%), and by a permanent drop in CaCO3% to <3%. Starting at ca. 5.2 ka, coastal redwood and alder began a steady rise, arguing for increasing effective moisture and the development of the north coast temperate rain forest. At ca. 3.2 ka, a permanent ca. 1°C increase in alkenone SST and a threefold increase in P. doliolus signaled a warming of fall and winter SSTs. Intensified (higher amplitude and more frequent) cycles of pine pollen alternating with increased alder and redwood pollen are evidence that rapid changes in effective moisture and seasonal temperature (enhanced El Niño–Southern Oscillation [ENSO] cycles) have characterized the Site 1019 record since about 3.5 ka.