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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Neoglacial climate in the Southern Coast Mountains, British Columbia Evans, Martin Grant


Palaeobotanical records of Holocene climate change in the southern Coast Mountains identify a cooler/wetter Neoglacial period subsequent to 6600 BP. Geomorphic evidence of alpine glacier advance suggests that there were three distinct cooler/wetter periods during the Neoglacial, but this pattern has not been identified in palaeobotanical studies. By careful selection of a sensitive alpine site this thesis has recognised this structure in a palynological record of Neoglacial climate. This continuous record of Neoglacial climate which has the same basis as records of early Holocene climate (i.e. palynological) and hence allows more direct comparisons of the two periods. Pollen spectra, conifer needle macrofossils, organic matter content, and magnetic susceptibility were assessed for a 4800 year continuous sequence of sediment from an alpine lake. Calibration of the Picea/Pinus pollen ratio by using an altitudinal transect of surface pollen samples allowed partial quantification of shifts in treeline. Treeline at the site was at least 85 m above the present level from 4800-3800 BP, suggesting that summer temperatures were at least 0.6°C above the present. High treeline until 3800 BP indicates a relatively late date for the Hypsithermal/Neoglacial transition at this site. Alternatively, the apparent complexity of this transition in the Coast Mountains may be due to difficulties of separating temperature and precipitation signals in many climatic records. Treeline declined to near present levels by 2500 BP and was lower than present from 2500-1500 BP and from 1200 BP until close to the present. Estimates of equilibrium line altitude depression for Coast Mountain glaciers during the Little Ice Age suggest that these periods of lower treeline were due to a cooling of up to 0.8°C. During the last 5000 years the Southern Coast Mountains have experienced fluctuations on the order of 1.5°C.

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