Abstract

Quaternary interglacial periods provide glimpses of a warmer Arctic and useful perspectives on possible future conditions, but records of Arctic terrestrial conditions over multiple interglacial periods are rare. Here, we take advantage of a site in the Canadian Arctic where lacustrine sediments representing the past three interglacial periods are preserved in an extant lake. We use subfossil insects (chironomids) preserved in this exceptional sedimentary archive to derive temperature reconstructions through the Holocene up to A.D. 2005, through the Last Interglacial sensu stricto (marine isotope stage or MIS 5e), and a portion of the penultimate interglacial (MIS 7). Chironomid-inferred temperatures are warmest for the early Holocene and MIS 5e, two periods with enhanced Northern Hemisphere insolation forcing relative to today. Twentieth-century warming at this site apparently caused the recent extirpation of cold stenothermous chironomid taxa. Assemblages from MIS 5e have close analogs in modern training set data as determined by squared-chord distance, and MIS 5e species assemblages are very similar to Holocene assemblages at this site. MIS 7 sediments record summer temperatures similar to those of the mid- to late Holocene, followed by a descent into glacial conditions. Even MIS 7 chironomid assemblages, dating back ∼200,000 yr, have close modern analogs. These lake sediments also provide direct evidence for a period of regional deglaciation between MIS 5e and the Holocene (most likely MIS 5a). To our knowledge, the data presented here represent the longest paleotemperature record thus far generated using chironomids. The existence of close modern analogs for ancient chironomid assemblages at Lake CF8 suggests that this method can provide useful paleotemperature estimates extending back hundreds of millennia.

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