We present the first comprehensive late Quaternary record of North American Great Plains temperature by assessing the behavior of the stable isotopic composition (δ13C) of buried soils. After examining the relationship between the δ13C of topsoil organic matter and July temperature from 61 native prairies within a latitudinal range of 46°–38°N, we applied the resulting regression equation to 64 published δ13C values from buried soils of the same region to construct a temperature curve for the past 12 k.y. Estimated temperatures from 12 to 10 ka (1 k.y. = 1000 14C yr B.P.) fluctuated with a periodicity of ∼1 k.y. with two cool excursions between −4.5 and −3.5 °C and two warmer excursions between −1 and 0 °C, relative to modern. Early Holocene temperatures from ca. 10–7.5 ka were −1.0 to −2.0 °C before rising to +1.0 °C in the middle Holocene between 6.0 and 4.5 ka. After a cool interlude from 4.2 to 2.6 ka, when temperatures dropped to slightly below modern, another warm interval ensued from 2.6 to 1 ka as temperatures increased to ∼+0.5 °C. A final decline in temperature to below modern occurred beginning ca. 0.5 ka. Cooler than present temperatures in the Great Plains indicate telecommunications with cool-water episodes in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic potentially governed by a combination of glacial meltwater pulses and low solar irradiance.

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