Two millennia of North Atlantic seasonality and implications for Norse colonies
1. William P. Patterson (a,1)
2. Kristin A. Dietrich (a)
3. Chris Holmden (a)
4. John T. Andrews (b)
a. Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, 114 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2 Canada; and
b. University of Colorado, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Department of Geological Sciences, Box 450, Boulder, CO 80309
1 To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Bill.Patterson@usask.ca.
δ18O values of mollusks recovered from near-shore marine cores in northwest Iceland quantify significant variation in seasonal temperature over the period from ∼360 B.C. to ∼A.D. 1660. Twenty-six aragonitic bivalve specimens were selected to represent intervals of climatic interest by using core sedimentological characteristics. Carbonate powder was sequentially micromilled from shell surfaces concordant with growth banding and analyzed for stable oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) isotope values. Because δ18O values record subseasonal temperature variation over the lifetime of the bivalves, these data provide the first 2,000-year secular record of North Atlantic seasonality from ca. 360 cal yr B.C. to cal yr A.D. 1660. Notable cold periods (360 B.C. to 240 B.C.; A.D. 410; and A.D. 1380 to 1420) and warm periods (230 B.C. to A.D. 140 and A.D. 640 to 760) are resolved in terms of contrast between summer and winter temperatures and seasonal temperature variability. Literature from the Viking Age (ca. 790 to 1070) during the establishment of Norse colonies (and later) in Iceland and Greenland permits comparisons between the δ18O temperature record and historical records, thereby demonstrating the impact of seasonal climatic extremes on the establishment, development, and, in some cases, collapse of societies in the North Atlantic.
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