Late Quaternary Climate Variations Reflected in Baltic Sea Sediments

Part of the Central and Eastern European Development Studies (CEEDES) book series (CEEDES)


Late Pleistocene to Holocene climate change of the Atlantic and the northern European realm is reflected by the facies of sediments in the Baltic Sea. The sedimentary sequence have been subdivided into zones reflecting the main postglacial stages of the Baltic Sea basin development according to sediment echosounder profiling and investigating sediment cores from the central Baltic. The changes in the environment of Baltic Sea bottom water is displayed by sediment physical, geochemical, and microfossil proxies. These proxies mark the main shift in the sedimentary facies of the Baltic Basin at 8.14 cal. years BP, from a freshwater to a brackish/marine environment due to the Littorina transgression of marine water masses from the North Sea. The downhole physical facies variation from the Eastern Gotland can be correlated basinwide. Thickness maps of the freshwater and the brackish sediments ascribe the general change in the hydrographic circulation from a coast-to-basin to a basin-to-basin system along with the Littorina transgression. Variations in the salinity of the brackish Littorina Baltic Basin are attributed to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) ascribing the wind forces driving the inflow of marine water into the Baltic Basin. Time series analysis of facies variation reveals distinct periodicities of 900 and 1,500 years. These periods can be compared with data from North Atlantic marine sediments and Greenland ice cores identifying global climate change effects in Baltic Basin sediments.


Eastern Gotland Basin Holocene Physico stratigraphical zona 



The study has been supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The authors express their gratitude to the captain and the crew of the R/V “Poseidon” for the excellent co-operation during the expedition in June 2005.

We thank Dr. Torsten Seifert from the Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Germany, who provided results from numerical modelling of the current system in the central Baltic Sea.

We also thank Dorota Kaulbarsz, Polish Geological Institute Gdańsk, and Irina Taranenko, St. Petersburg State University, for her co-operation within the frame of this project.


  1. Alheit J, Hagen E (1997) Long-term climate forcing of European herring and sardine populations. Fisheries Oceanography 6(2):130–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvi K, Winterhalter B (2001) Authigenic mineralisation in the temporally anoxic Gotland Deep, the Baltic Sea. Baltica 14:74–83Google Scholar
  3. Andrén E (1999) Holocene environmental changes recorded by diatom stratigraphy in the southern Baltic Sea. Meddelanden fran Stockholms Universitets Institution foer Geologi och Geokemi 302:22Google Scholar
  4. Andrén E, Andrén T, Kunzendorf H (2000) Holocene history of the Baltic Sea as a background for assessing records of human impact in the sediment of the Gotland Basin. The Holocene 10(5):621–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrén E, Andrén T, Kohly A (2001) Development of Anoxia during the Holocene fresh-brackish water transition in the Baltic Sea. Marine Geology 177:221–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Andrén T, Lindeberg G, Andrén E (2002) Evidence of the final drainage of the Baltic Ice Lake and the brackish phase of the Yoldia Sea in glacial varves from the Baltic Sea. Boreas 31:226–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Andresen CS, Bond G, Kuijpers A, Knutz PC, Bjoerck S (2005) Holocene climate variability at multidecadal time scales detected by sedimentological indicators in a shelf core NW off Iceland. Marine Geology 214:323–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bianchi GG, McCave N (1999) Holocene periodicity in North Atlantic climate and deep ocean flow south of Iceland. Nature 397:515–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Björck S (1995) A review of the history of the Baltic Sea, 13.0–8.0 ka BP. Quaternary International 27:19–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Björck S (2008) The late Quaternary development of the Baltic Sea basin. In: TBATeam (eds) Assessment of climate change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 398–407Google Scholar
  11. Bloomfield P (2000) Fourier analysis of time series: an introduction. Wiley, New York, NYCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bond G, Showers W, Cheseby M, Lotti R, Almasi P, deMenocal P, Priore P, Cullen H, Hajdas I, Bonani G (1997) A pervasive millennial-scale cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial climates. Science 278:1257–1265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bond G, Kromer B, Beer J, Muscheler R, Evans M, Showers W, Hoffmann S, Lotti-Bond R, Hajdas I, Bonani G (2001) Persistent solar influence on North Atlantic climate during the holocene. Science 294:2130–2136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boyce RE (1973) Appendix I. Physical property methods. In: Edgar NT, Sounders JB, et al. (eds) Initial reports deep sea drilling project 15. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, pp 1115–1128Google Scholar
  15. Burke JT, Kemp AES (2002) Microfabric analysis of Mn-carbonate laminae deposition and Mn-sulfide formation in the Gotalnd Deep, Baltic Sea. Geochimica and Cosmochimica Acta 66(9):1589–1600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Conley DJ, Humborg C, Rahm L, Savchuk OP, Wulff F (2002) Hypoxia in the Baltic Sea and basin-scale changes in phosphorous and biogeochemistry. Environmental Science and Technology 36:5315–5320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Conley DJ, Björck S, Bonsdorff E, Carstensen J, Destouni G, Gustafsson BG, Hietanen S, Kortekaas M, Kuosa H, Meier HEM, Müller-Karulis B, Nordberg K, Norkko A, Nürnberg G, Pitkänen H, Rabalais NN, Rosenberg R, Savchuk OP, Slomp CP, Voss M, Wulff F, Zillen L (2009) Hypoxia-related processes in the Baltic Sea-critical review. Environmental Science and Technology 43:3412–3420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davis BAS, Brewer S, Stevenson AC, Guiot J (2003) The temperature of Europe during the Holocene reconstructed from pollen data. Quaternary Science Review 22:1701–1716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dawson AG, Hickey K, Holt T, Elliott L, Dawson S, Foster IDL, Wadhams P, Jonsdottir I, Wilkinson J, McKenna J, Davis NR, Smith DE (2002) Complex North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index signal of historic North Atlantic storm-track changes. The Holocene 12:363–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dippner JW, Voss M (2004) Climate reconstruction during the MWP in the Baltic Sea from biogeochemical proxies in a sediment record. Baltica 17(1):5–16Google Scholar
  21. Emeis KC, Struck U, Leipe T, Pollehne F, Kunzendorf H, Christiansen C (2000) Changes in the C, N, P burial rates in some Baltic Sea sediments over the last 150 yearas – relevance to P regeneration rates and the phosphorous cycle. Marine Geology 167(1–2):43–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Emeis KC, Dawson AG (2003) Holocene palaeoclimate records over Europe and the North Atlantic. The Holocene 13:305–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Emeis KC, Struck U, Blanz T, Kohly A, Voß M (2003) Salinity changes in the central Baltic Sea (NW Europe) over the last 10000 years. The Holocene 13(3):411–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Emelyanov EM (1994) Baltic Sea: geology, geochemistry, paleoceanography, pollution. Shirshov Institute Oceanology RAS, Atlantic Branch, Kaliningrad, pp 119Google Scholar
  25. Emelyanov EM (2006) The thickness of the marine Holocene sediments of the Baltic Sea and their resuspension and redeposition. The Baltic Sea Geology 9 Mar. Geol. Conf. Riga University of Latvia, p 22Google Scholar
  26. Emelyanov EM (2007) The geochemical and geoecological situation of the Gotland Basin in the Baltic Sea where chemical munitions were dumped. Geologija 60:10–26Google Scholar
  27. Erikssen C, Hansson D, Omstedt A, Chen D (2007a) Reconstruction of river runoff to the Baltic Sea for the period 1500–1995. GEWEX News 17(3):3–4Google Scholar
  28. Erikssen C, Omstedt A, Overland JE, Percival DB, Mofjeld AO (2007b) Characterizing the European Subarctic winter climate since 1500 using ice, temperature, and atmospheric circulation time series. Journal of Climate 20:5316–5334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ghil M, Allen MR, Dettinger MD, Ide K, Kondrashov D, Mann ME, Robertson AW, Saunders A, Tian Y, Varadi F, Yiou P (2002) Advanced spectral methods for climatic time series. Reviews of Geophysics 40(1):3.1–3.41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gingele FX, Leipe T (1997) Clay mineral assemblages in the western Baltic Sea: recent distribution and relation to sedimentary units. Marine Geology 140:97–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gunn DE, Best AI (1998) A new automated nondestructive system for high resolution multi-sensor core logging of open sediment cores. Geo-Marine Letters 18:70–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hagen E, Feistel R (2005) Climatic turning points and regime shifts in the Baltic Sea region: the Baltic winter index (WIBIX, 1659-2002). Boreal Environment Research 10:211–224Google Scholar
  33. Hagen E (2006) Volcano dust and long-term modes of the Baltic Sea winter climate. BALTEX Newsletter 9:14–15Google Scholar
  34. Hagen E, Feistel R (2008) Baltic climate change. In: Feistel R, Nausch G, Wasmund N (eds) State and evolution of the Baltic Sea 1952–2005. Wiley, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  35. Harff J, Winterhalter B (1996) Cruise report R/V PETR KOTTSOV Sept 2–Sept 12, 1996. Baltic Sea Research Institute, WarnemündeGoogle Scholar
  36. Harff J, Winterhalter B (eds) (1997) Cruise report R/V PETR KOTTSOV July 22–Aug 1 1997. Baltic Sea Research Institute, WarnemündeGoogle Scholar
  37. Harff J, Bohling GC, Endler R, Davis JC, Olea RA, Schwarzacher W (1999) Holocene sediments from the Baltic Sea basins as indicators for the paleoenvironment. In: Lippard SJ (ed) Proceedings of the 5th annual conference of the International association of mathematical geology, Trondheim 6–11th Aug 1999, vol 1, pp 195–200Google Scholar
  38. Harff J, Bohling G, Davis J, Endler R, Kunzendorf H, Olea R, Schwarzacher W, Voss M (2001a) Physico-chemical stratigraphy of Gotland basin Holocene sediments, the Baltic Sea. Baltica 14:58–66Google Scholar
  39. Harff J, Frischbutter A, Lampe R, Meyer M (2001b) Sea level change in the Baltic Sea – interrelation of climatic and geological processes. In: Gerhard LC, Harrison WE, Hanson BM (eds) Geological perspectives of global climate change. AAPG-Studies in Geology 47:231–250Google Scholar
  40. Harff J (ed) (2005) Cruise report R/V POSEIDON, cruise POS 07/05/01 (POSEIDON 323). Baltic Sea Research Institute, WarnemündeGoogle Scholar
  41. Harff J, Lampe R, Lemke W, Lübke H, Lüth F, Meyer M, Tauber F (2005) The Baltic Sea – a model ocean to study interrelations of geosphere, ecosphere and anthroposphere in the coastal zone. Journal of Coastal Research 21(3):441–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ignatius H, Axberg S, Nemistö L, Winterhalter B (1981) Quaternary geology of the Baltic Sea. In: Voipio A (ed) The Baltic Sea. Elsevier Oceanography Series 30:54–104Google Scholar
  44. Justino F, Peltier W (2005) The glacial North Atlantic Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters 32:L21803. doi:10.1029/2005GL023822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kotilainen AT, Saarinen T, Winterhlter B (2000) High resolution paleomagnetic dating of sediments deposited in the Central Baltic Sea during the last 3000 years. Marine Geology 166:51–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kotov SR, Harff J (2006) A comparison of Greenland Ice and Baltic Sea Sediment Record: a contribution to climate change analysis. Mathematical Geology 38:6Google Scholar
  47. Leipe T, Dippner JW, Hille S, Voss M, Christiansen C, Bartholdy J (2008) Environmental changes in the central Baltic Sea during the past 1000 years: inferences from sedimentary records, hydrography and climate. Oceanologia 50:23–41Google Scholar
  48. Loutre MF, Berger A, Bretagnon P, Blanc P-L (1992) Astronomical frequencies for climate research at the decadal to century time scale. Climate Dynamics 7:181–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mariotti A, Arkin P (2007) The North Atlantic Oscillation and oceanic precipitation variability. Climate Dynamics 28:35–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Matthäus W (2006) The history of investigation of salt water inflows into the Baltic Sea from the early beginning to recent results. Marine Science Reports 65. Baltic Sea Research Institute, WarnemündeGoogle Scholar
  51. Matthäus W, Nehring D, Feistel R, Nausch G, Mohrholz V, Lass H-U (2008) The inflow of highly saline water into the Baltic Sea. In: Feistel et al. (eds) State and evolution of the Baltic Sea, 1952–2005. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Chapter 10, pp 265–309Google Scholar
  52. Mayewski PA, Meeker LD, Twickler MS, Whitlow S, Yang Q, Lyons WB, Prentice M (1997) Major features and forcing of high-latitude northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation using 110,000-year long glaciochemical series. Quaternary Research 102:26345–26366Google Scholar
  53. Mayewski PA, Rohling EE, Stager E, Karlén K, Maasch K, Meeker LD, Meyerson E, Gasse F, van Kreveld S, Holmgren K, Lee-Thorp, J, Rosquist G, Rack F, Staubwasser M, Schneider R (2004) Holocene climate variability. Quaternary Research 62:243–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Meier HEM, Kauker F (2003) Sensitivity of the Baltic Sea salinity to the freshwater supply. Climate Research 24:231–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Meier HEM (2005) Modeling the age of Baltic Seawater masses: quantification and steady state sensitivity experiments. Journal of Geophysics Research 110:C02006. doi:10.1029/2004JC002607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Meier HEM (2007) Modeling the pathway and ages of inflow salt- and freshwater in the Baltic Sea. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 74:610–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Moros M, De Decker P, Jansen E, Perner K, Telford RJ (2009) Holocene climate variability in the Southern Ocean recorded in a deep-sea sediment core off South Australia. Quaternary Science Review 28:1932–1941Google Scholar
  58. Neumann T, Christansen C, Clasen S, Emeis K-C, Kunzendorf H (1997) Geochemical records of salt-water inflows into the deep basins of the Baltic Sea. Continental Shelf Research 17(1):95–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. O’Brien SR, Mayewski PA, Meeker LD, Meese DA, Twickler MS, Whitlow S (1995) Complexity of Holocene climate as reconstructed from a Greenland ice core. Science 270:1962–1964CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Olea RA, Sampson RJ (2002) CORRELATOR 5.2 – computer program and user’s manual. Open-File Report: 2002-51, Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. Also electronically available as
  61. Pacanowski RC, Griffies SM (2000) MOM 3.0 manual. Technical Report, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, pp 680Google Scholar
  62. Pers C, Rahm L (2000) Changes in apparent oxygen removal in the Baltic Proper deep water. Journal of Marine System 25:421–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rahmstorf S (2002) Ocean circulation and climate during the past 120,000 years. Nature 419:207–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Repecka M (2001) Physical properties of bottom sediments from three Baltic Sea basins. Baltica 14:24–29Google Scholar
  65. Richter TO, van der Gaast S, Koster B, Vaars A, Gieles R, de Stigter HC, De Haas H, van Weering TCE (2006) The Avaatech XRF Core scanner: technical description and applications to NE Atlantic sediments. In Rothwell RG (ed) New techniques in sediment core analysis. Geological Society, London (Special Publication), vol 267, pp 39–50Google Scholar
  66. Sarnthein M, van Kreveld S, Erlenkeuser H, Grootes PM, Kucera M, Pflaumann U, Schulz M (2003) Centennial-to-millennial-scale periodicities of Holocene climate and sediment injections off the western Barents shelf, 75°N. Boreas, Oslo, 32:447–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schultheiss PJ, Weaver PPE (1992) Multi-sensor core logging for science and industry. Proceedings of the Oceans 92. Mastering the Oceans through Technology 2:608–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schulz M, Paul A (2002) Holocene climate variability on centennial-to-millennial time scales: 1 Climate records from the North-Atlantic realm. In: Wefer G, Berger W (eds) Climate development and history of the North Atlantic realm. Springer, Berlin, pp 41–54Google Scholar
  69. Seifert T, Tauber F, Kayser B (2001) A high resolution spherical grid topography of the Baltic Sea, 2nd edn. Baltic Sea Science Congress, Stockholm 25–29 November 2001. Abstract vol Poster #147Google Scholar
  70. Sohlenius G, Stenbeck J, Andrén E, Westman P (1996) Holocene history of the Baltic Sea as recorded in a sediment core from the Gotland Deep. Marine Geology 134:183–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sohlenius G, Westman P (1998) Salinity and redox alterations in the northwestern Baltic Proper during the late Holocene. Boreas 27:101–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sohlenius G, Emeis K-C, Andrén E, Andrén T, Kohly A (2001) Development of anoxia during the Holocene fresh—brackish water transition in the Baltic Sea. Marine Geology 177:221–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sternbeck J, Sohlenius G (1997) Authigenic sulfide and carbonate mineral formation in Holocene sediments of the Baltic Sea. Chemical Geology 135:55–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sternbeck J, Sohlenius G, Hallberg RO (2000) Sedimentary trace elements as proxies to depositional changes induced by a Holocene fresh-brackish transition. Aquatic Geochemistry 6:325–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stuiver M, Braziunas TF, Grootes PM, Zielinski GA (1997) Is there evidence for solar forcing of climate in the GISP2 oxygen isotope record? Quaternary Research 48:259–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Trouet V, Esper J, Graham NE, Baker A, Scource JD, Frank DC (2009) Persistent positive North Atlantic oscillation mode dominated the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Science 324:78–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Uppala S, Kallberg P, Simmons A, Andrae U, da Costa Bechtold V, Fiorino M, Gibson J, Haseler J, Hernandez A, Kelly G, Li X, Onogi K, Saarinen S, Sokka N, Allan R, Andersson E, Arpe K, Balmaseda M, Beljaars A, van de Berg L, Bidlot J, Bormann N, Caires S, Chevallier F, Dethof A, Dragosavac M, Fisher M, Fuentes M, Hagemann S, Holm E, Hoskins B, Isaksen L, Janssen P, Jenne R, McNally A, Mahfouf J-F, Morcrette J-J, Rayner N, Saunders R, Simon P, Sterl A, Trenberth K, Untch A, Vasiljevic D, Viterbo P, Woollen J (2005) The ERA-40 reanalysis. Quarterly Journal of the Royal, Meteorological Society 131:2961–3012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Van der Werff A, Hulls H (1957–1974) Diatomeeën flora van Nederland. Otto Koeltz Science Publishers, Koenigstein, pp 1–142Google Scholar
  79. Westman P, Sohlenius G (1999) Diatom stratigraphy in five offshore sediment cores from the northwestern Baltic Proper implying large scale circulation changes during the last 8500 years. Journal of Paleolimnology 22:53–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Winterhalter B, Flóden T, Ignatius H, Axberg S, Niemistö L (1981) Geology of the Baltic Sea. In: Voipio A (ed) The Baltic Sea. Elsevier Oceanography Series 30, pp 1–121Google Scholar
  81. Winterhalter B (ed) (2001a) The BASYS project and the paleoenvironment of the Baltic Sea. Baltica 14:143Google Scholar
  82. Winterhalter B (2001b) On sediment patchiness at the BASYS coring site, Gotland Deep, the Baltic Sea. Baltica 14:18–23Google Scholar
  83. Zillén L, Conley DJ, Andrén T, Andrén E, Björck S (2008) Past occurrences of hypoxia in the Baltic Sea and the role of climate variability, environmental change and human impact. Earth Science Reviews 91:77–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zorita E, Laine A (2000) Dependence of salinity and oxygen concentrations in the Baltic Sea on large-scale atmospheric circulation. Climate Research 14:25–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research WarnemündeRostockGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, University of SzczecinSzczecinPoland
  3. 3.Atlantic BranchP.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences (ABIORAS)KaliningradRussia
  4. 4.St. Petersburg State UniversitySt. PetersburgRussia
  5. 5.US Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  6. 6.Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, University of SzczecinSzczecinPoland

Personalised recommendations