Abstract

The Younger Dryas was one of the more dramatic climatic transitions ever recorded. How these types of climatic shifts are expressed in continental interiors is of primary scientific interest and of vital societal concern. Here we present a speleothem-based absolutely dated record (using uranium-series data) of climate change for the southwestern United States from growth chronology of multiple speleothems. The stalagmite growth represents the onset of wetter climate (12,500 yr B.P.) soon after the start of the Younger Dryas; the wetter climate persisted a millennium beyond the termination of the Younger Dryas. This wet cycle is likely related to a more southern positioning of the polar jet stream in response to cooler Northern Hemisphere climate. The end of the wet period coincides with the peak of the Holocene summer insolation maximum ca. 10,500 yr B.P. The Ållerød (prior to the Younger Dryas), which corresponds to Clovis occupation in the southwestern United States, was drier in comparison and seems in line with a climatic contribution to megafauna extinction.

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