Climate Research and Development

Arctic Paleoclimatology

Map showing sites under study in Arctic Ocean.
Map showing sites under study in Arctic Ocean.

This project investigates paleoceanographic and climatic history of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas during the last 500,000 years when large glacial to interglacial and millennial climate fluctuations occurred. Warm climatic intervals such as the early Holocene (~5,000-11,500 years ago), the Last Interglacial Period (the Eemian Interglacial, ~ 125,000-130,000 years ago), and Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 11 (~400,000 to 450,000 years ago) are of particular interest due to concern about future climatic warming. This project uses various proxy methods that address the history of Arctic sea ice, bottom and surface ocean circulation, and ocean temperature variability. Sea ice history over the last 500,000 years has been studied using sediment cores and surface sediment samples from Arctic continental shelves, abyssal plains, the Lomonosov, Mendeleev, and Gakkel Ridges, the Yermak Plateau, and Morris Jesup Rise (see map). Arctic bottom water temperatures and ocean circulation were also reconstructed using ostracode Mg/Ca ratios and faunal analyses. Holocene ocean temperatures were studied in the Beaufort-Chukchi Sea region off northern Alaska and compared to recent ocean warming in that region. Current focus is on Arctic Ocean climate during past warm interglacial periods in the Northwind Ridge and Chukchi Sea region north of Alaska.

Why is this research important?

Paleoclimate reconstructions from the Arctic suggest that recent atmospheric warming has reversed regional climatic trends of the last few millennia. During recent decades, Arctic temperatures have increased while annual and seasonal Arctic Ocean sea ice cover has decreased, leading to greater coastal erosion, changes in marine ecosystems, habitats, and productivity, and greater export of freshwater, among other trends. Of particular concern is the decrease in Arctic sea ice extent and thickness since 1979, especially during summer months, which has outpaced the rates predicted by climate models. Because instrumental records extend back only a few decades and due to large interannual and decadal variability, the causes of ongoing Arctic climate change remain unclear. In addition, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are approaching levels not seen in 3 million years. Thus there is a growing need to understand how the Arctic Ocean responds to climate change caused by both natural and anthropogenic factors. Paleoclimate records preserved in Arctic Ocean sediments improve understanding of patterns and causes of Arctic climate change, shed light on possible future climate change, and help decision makers on issues related to ecosystems, endangered species, energy policy, and transportation.

Project Lead:
Thomas M. Cronin, Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center
Project Team:
Laura Gemery, Rachel Marzen
Project Website

32 publications matching the specified parameters were found.

Jakobsson, M., Nilsson, J., Anderson, L., Backman, J., Björk, G., Cronin, T.M., Kirchner, N., Koshurnikov, A., Mayer, L., Noormets, R., O'Regan, M., Stranne, C., Ananiev, R., Macho, N.B., Cherniykh, D., Coxall, H., Eriksson, B., Flodén, T., Gemery, L., Gustafsson, O., Jerram, K., Johansson, K., Khortov, A., Mohammad, R., and Semiletov, I., 2016, Evidence for an ice shelf covering the central Arctic Ocean during the penultimate glaciation: Nature communications, v. 7, article 10365.
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Cronin, T. M. and Cronin, M., 2015, Biological Response to Climate Change in the Arctic Ocean: the View from the Past, Arktos: The Journal of Arctic Geosciences, v. 1, p. 1-18.
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Cronin, T. M., 2015, Climate Change, in M. Kennish ed., Encyclopedia of Estuaries: Dordrecht, Springer Science+Business Media, p. 122-128.
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Cronin, T. M., 2015, Ostracods and sea level, in Shennan, I., Long, A.J., and Horton, B.P., eds., Handbook of Sea-Level Research: Sussex, John Wiley & Sons, p. 249-257.

DeNinno, L.H., Cronin, T.M., Rodriquez-Lazaro, J., and Brenner, A., 2015, An early to mid-Pleistocene deep Arctic Ocean ostracode fauna with North Atlantic affinities: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 419, p. 90-99.
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Gemery, L., Cronin, T.M., Briggs, W.M., Brouwers, E.M., Schornikov, E.I., Stepanova, A., Wood, A.M., Yasuhara, M., 2015, An Arctic and Subarctic Ostracode Database: Biogeographic and Paleoceanographic Applications: Hydrobiologica, p. 1-37.
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Stokes, C.R., Taraso, L., Blomdin, R., Cronin, T.M., Fisher, T.J., Gyllencreutz, R., Hätte Strand, C., Heyman, J., Hindmarsh, R.C.A., Hughes, A.L.C., Jakobsson, M., Kirchner, N., Living Stone, S.J., Margold, M., Murton, J.B., Noormets, R., Peltier, W.R., Peteet, D.M., Piper, D.J.W., Preusser, F., Renssen, H., Roberts, D.H., Roche, D.M., Saint-Ange, F., and Stroeven, A.P., 2015, On the recon Struction of palaeo-ice sheets: Recent advances and future challenges: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 125, p. 15-49.
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Alexanderson, H., Backman, J., Cronin, T.M., Funder, S., Ingolfsson, O., Jakobsson, M., Landvik, J.Y., Lowemark, L., Mangerud, J., and Marz, C., 2014, An Arctic perspective on dating Mid-Late Pleistocene environmental history: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 92, p. 9-31.

Cronin, T. M., 2014, Paleoclimates, in Freedman, B., ed., Global Environmental Change, Volume 1 of series Handbook of Global Environmental Pollution: The Netherlands, Springer, p. 49-54.

Cronin, T., DeNinno, L., Polyak, L., Caverly, E., Poore, R., Brenner, A., Rodriguez-Lazaro, J., and Marzen, R., 2014, Quaternary ostracode and foraminiferal biostratigraphy and paleoceanography in the western Arctic Ocean: Marine Micropaleontology, v. 111, p. 118-133.

Cronin, T., Farmer, J., Marzen, R., Thomas, E., and Varekamp, J., 2014, Late Holocene sea level variability and Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: Paleoceanography, v. 29, no. 8, p. 765-777.

O'Connor, J.E., Atwater, B.F., Cohn, T.A., Cronin, T.M., Keith, M.K., Smith, C.G., and Mason, R.R., 2014, Assessing inundation hazards to nuclear powerplant sites using geologically extended histories of riverine floods, tsunamis, and storm surges: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5207, 66 p.

Yasuhara, M., Okahashi, H., Cronin, T.M., Rasmussen, T.L., and Hunt, G., 2014, Response of deep-sea biodiversity to abrupt deglacial and Holocene climate changes in the North Atlantic Ocean: Global Ecology and Biogeography, v. 23, no. 9, p. 957-967.

Yasuhara, M., Stepanova, A., Okahashi, H., Cronin, T., and Brouwers, E., 2014, Taxonomic revision of deep-sea Ostracoda from the Arctic Ocean: Micropaleontology, v. 60, no. 4.

Burkett, V.R., Kirtland, D.A., Taylor, I.L., Belnap, Jayne, Cronin, T.M., Dettinger, M.D., Frazier, E.L., Haines, J.W., Loveland, T.R., Milly, P.C.D., O'Malley, Robin, Thompson, R.S., Maule, A.G., McMahon, Gerard, and Striegl, R.G., 2013, U.S. Geological Survey climate and land use change science strategy - A framework for understanding and responding to global change: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1383-A, 43 p.
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Cronin, T.M., Polyak, L., Reed, D., Kandiano, E.S., Marzen, R.E., and Council, E.A., 2013, A 600-ka Arctic sea-ice record from Mendeleev Ridge based on ostracodes: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 79, p. 157-167.

Gemery, L., Cronin, T.M., Cooper, L.W., and Grebmeier, J.M., 2013, Temporal changes in benthic ostracode assemblages in the Northern Bering and Chukchi Seas from 1976 to 2010: Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, v. 94, p. 68-79.

Cronin, T. M., Dwyer,, G. S. Farmer, J., Bauch, H. A., Spielhagen, R. F., Jakobsson, M., Nilsson, J., Briggs, W. M., Jr.,and Stepanova, A., 2012, Deep Arctic Ocean Warming during the last Glacial Cycle: Nature Geoscience, v. 5, p. 631-634.

Cronin, T. M., Wingard, G. L., Dwyer, G. S., Swart, P. K., Willard, D. A., and Albietz, J., 2013, Climate Variability during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and Little Ice Age based on ostracode faunas and shell geochemistry from Biscayne Bay, Florida. In D. Horne et al. (eds.), Ostracoda as proxies for Quaternary climate change, Elsevier, The Netherlands: Developments in Quaternary Science, v. 17, p. 241-262.

Cronin, T.M., 2012, Rapid Sea Level Rise: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 56, p. 11-30.

Farmer, J., Cronin, T. M., and Dwyer, G. S., 2012, Ostracode Mg/Ca paleothermometry in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans: evaluation of the carbonate ion effect: Paleoceanography, v. 27, no. 2.
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Poirier, R.K., Cronin, T.M., Briggs, W.M., Lockwood, R., 2012, Central Arctic paleoceanography for the last 50kyr based on ostracode faunal assemblages: Marine Micropaleontology, v. 88-89, p. 65-76.

Yasuhara, M., Hunt, G., Cronin, T.M., Hokanishi, N., Kawahata, H., Tsujimoto, A., and Ishitake, M., 2012, Climatic forcing of Quaternary deep-sea benthic communities in the North Pacific Ocean: Paleobiology, v. 38, p. 162-179.

Yasuhara, M., Hunt, G., van Dijken G., Arrigo, K.R., Cronin, T.M., and Wollenburg, J.E., 2012, Patterns and controlling factors of species diversity in the Arctic Ocean: Journal of Biogeography, v. 39, no. 11, p. 2081-2088.
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Burkett, V., Taylor, I.L., Belnap, J., Cronin, T.M., Dettinger, M.D., Frazier, E.L., Haines, J.W., Kirtland, D.A., Loveland, T.R., Milly, P.C.D., O'Malley, R., and Thompson, R. S., 2011, USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change: USGS Open-File Report 2011-1033.

Cronin, T. M., 2011, Forward, in St. John, K., and Leckie, Mark, Reconstructing Earth's Climate History: San Francisco, Wiley-Blackwell.

Cronin, T., Rayburn, J., Guilbault, J.P., Thunell, R., and Franzi, D., 2011, Stable isotope evidence for glacial lake drainage through the St. Lawrence Estuary, eastern Canada, ~ 13.1-12.9 ka: Quaternary International, v. 260, p. 55-65.

Jennings, A.E., Sheldon, C., Cronin, T.M., Francus, P., Stoner, J., and Andrews, J., 2011, The Holocene history of Nares Strait: Transition from glacial bay to Arctic-Atlantic throughflow: Oceanography, v. 24, no. 3, p. 26-41.

Katz, B., Najjar, R.G., Cronin, T., Rayburn, J., and Mann, M.E., 2011, Constraints on Lake Agassiz discharge through the late-glacial Champlain Sea (St. Lawrence Lowlands, Canada) using salinity proxies and an estuarine circulation model: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 30, no. 23, p. 3248-3257.

Manley, P.L., Manley, T., Hayo, K., and Cronin, T., 2011, Small-scale lacustrine drifts in Lake Champlain, Vermont: Journal of Great Lakes Research, v. 38, p. 88-100.

Rayburn, J.A., Cronin, T.M., Franzi, D.A., Knuepfer, P.L., and Willard, D.A., 2011, Timing and duration of North American glacial lake discharges and the Younger Dryas climate reversal: Quaternary Research, v. 75, no. 3, p. 541-551.

Yasuhara, M., Hunt, G., Cronin, T.M., Hokanishi, N., Kawahata, H., Tsujimoto, A., and Ishitake, M., 2011, Climatic forcing of Quaternary deep-sea benthic communities in the North Pacific Ocean: Paleobiology, v. 38, p. 876-893.