Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 243–256 | Cite as

Holocene climate and environmental change in central New York (USA)

  • Henry T. MullinsEmail author
  • William P. Patterson
  • Mark A. Teece
  • Adam W. Burnett
Original paper


We present a Holocene record of climate and environmental change in central New York (USA) inferred using lithologic and stable isotope data from two sediment cores recovered in Cayuga Lake. The record was divided into three intervals: (1) early Holocene (~11.6–8.8 ka), (2) Hypsithermal (~8.8–4.4 ka), and (3) Neoglacial (~4.4 ka to present). The early Holocene began abruptly, with rising lake level and relatively deep water. Between ~10.8 and 9.2 ka, cool and dry conditions prevailed at a time of maximum solar insolation. This anomaly has been referred to as the “post-Younger Dryas climate interval” and lasted ~1,600 years, the approximate length of one “Bond cycle.” The Hypsithermal was the warmest, wettest and most biologically productive interval of the Holocene in central New York. The Hypsithermal was characterized by centennial to multi-centennial-scale variability. The 8.2 ka event is one such variation. The Neoglacial was an interval of generally cooler and dryer conditions, falling lake levels, and several prominent climate anomalies. At approximately 2.4 ka, δ13C of bulk organic matter increased abruptly by 5‰ as lake level declined, and the lake flora was dominated by Chara sp. during the coldest interval of the Neoglacial. Numerous sediment variables display increased variability ~2.0 ka, which continues today. Archaeological data from the literature suggest that Native American populations may have been large enough to impact land cover by about 2.4 ka and we hypothesize that the “Anthropocene” began at about that time in central New York. We also found paleolimnological evidence for the Medieval Warm Period (~1.4–0.5 ka), which was warmer and wetter than today, and for the Little Ice Age (~500–150 years ago), a period with temperatures colder than today.


Holocene Climate change Central New York Stable isotopes Lakes Atmospheric circulation 



We thank the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University and the Research Foundation at SUNY for financial support. This paper was written while HTM was on sabbatical at Colgate University. Jordan Kerber at Colgate University, Jack Rasson at Ithaca College, and John Hart at the NYS Museum were of great help in supplying archaeological information. We also thank Lindsay Harrington and Peter Smyntek from SUNY-ESF for help with sample collection and processing.

Supplementary material

10933_2011_9495_MOESM1_ESM.doc (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry T. Mullins
    • 1
    Email author
  • William P. Patterson
    • 2
  • Mark A. Teece
    • 3
  • Adam W. Burnett
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory, Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Department of ChemistrySUNY-ESFSyracuseUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyColgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

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