Abstract

New palynological data from peaty sediments deposited during the Port Moody Interstade, at about 18 000 14C years, indicate that the environment in the western Fraser Lowland of British Columbia consisted of subalpine forest and parkland with abundant fir and spruce that grew under a temperate and moist climate, similar to the wetter subzones of the present-day Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir biogeoclimatic zone. The moist conditions interpreted for the Port Moody Interstade are consistent with recent computer modelling and earlier palynological data from unglaciated western Washington State, but appear to contradict regional Cooperative Holocene Mapping Project (COHMAP) reconstructions and some earlier palaeoenvironmental studies that support dry conditions. Strong seasonality is suggested as part of the explanation, with Pacific storms in summer following the southern margin of the last Cordilleran ice sheet, bringing abundant moisture to the study area during the growing season, but probably not in winter, when storm tracks were displaced to the south. The cold and dry anticyclonic winds postulated by COHMAP were probably also relatively weak in summer, resulting in stronger expression of moist Pacific air masses than previously thought. The timing of the Port Moody Interstade coincides with that of a short climatic fluctuation reported from several other sites in both the northern and southern hemispheres. These events, if causally related, suggest a rapidly propagated atmospheric–oceanic signal.

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