Botanical and cryostratigraphic records from northwest Canada indicate that the climate of the early Holocene was considerably warmer than today: tree line was over 100 km farther north; and a thaw unconformity, dating from 8000 14C years BP, formed at the base of an active layer 2.5 times thicker than at present. Numerous thermokarst-lake basins formed in the preceding millennia. Both the botanical and cryostratigraphic indices described are products of summer conditions. Previous reconstructions of early Holocene climate have not assessed the significance of paleocoastal location on the seasonality and extent of apparent climate warming. At present, there is a steep gradient in growing-season conditions between cooler sites on the Beaufort Sea coast and warmer, inland locations. Winter conditions are more uniform because both sea and land are snow-covered. Coastal retreat in the region has been rapid, due to sea level rising over a gently sloping shelf containing readily erodible sediments. The coastline has moved about 100 km southward during the Holocene. The increasing proximity to the coast, through time, of points currently within 100 km of the sea may account for between one and two thirds of the cooling in summer climate experienced there since the mid-Holocene.